The approach is not chronological, as one might expect from the subtitle, but topical, dealing with such matters relating to the Popes as their secular concerns and powers, their finances, their families, their religious backgrounds, their elections, etc. Although a great deal of information is included here, what is lacking is a unifying, generalized view of the evolving concept of the significance of the Pope and his relationship to the Catholic Church and the rest of the world. References within the body of the book and the description on the dust jacket indicate that the author has spent a great deal of time working with the peasants of Italy, and this concern has overly slanted this book. Not only is there an unnecessary stress on the Italian clergy, but there are frequent digressions in which the author appears to be trying to refute undesignated arguments. (In particular, the author frequently refers to Communist propaganda against the Church, without specifying the Italian political climate.) The writing is enthusiastic and encompasses a great deal of papal lore and anecdotes, but the material is poorly organized and confusing and will be of interest only as a miscellany.