Tag Archives: Early American Republic

Significance in American History

Recently, the Smithsonian Magazine produced a list of what they claimed were the “100 Most Significant Americans.” Their analysts reached this conclusion through processing wikipedia and GoogleBooks. I’m not convinced this was the best measure or that all the names produced were really the most significant.

Now, I think this raises the big issue of what we count as significant and how we judge that. What is significance? Can it be quantified? Who do you think were significant Americans–and why? (Hint: that’s why there’s a comment section!)

Blogging historian Chris Gehrz assembled a panel of historians to comment on the listings, and I was pleased to participate. It didn’t hurt that I could do that instead of grading one more paper late at night.

Over the last two days, Chris has posted the responses. Take a look at them and see what you think!

Who Are the Most Significant Americans in History? (Part 1)

Who Are the Most Significant Americans in History? (Part 2)

Also, if you read to the end, you might just see a reference to a figure from the forthcoming book Patriotism and Piety.

Who is this (unmasked) Methodist? (Hint: he’s referenced in Part 2!)


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Digital Interview with Nancy Koester

Nancy Koester is the author of a recent biography of Harriet Beecher Stowe. If you are interested in an accessible biography of Stowe that takes her religious beliefs seriously, this biography is for you.

I had the great pleasure of hosting Nancy in my “American Religious History” class this fall. She did a great job.

To continue the conversation and to expose her ideas to other audiences, we set up a digital interview. That interview went live over the week-end at the Religion in American History blog.

Head over there to read the full interview.

I think it’s a good interview for the way it says something interesting about Harriet but also places her in her family context–her father Lyman, her sister Catharine, and her younger brother Henry Ward show up. I contend you can say a whole lot about the trajectories of 19th century American Religion by simply examining the Beecher family.

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Fall Semester, 2014

It’s the first day of classes at the University of Northwestern-St. Paul, Minnesota, and in an hour I’ll be tramping out of my office for my first class of the year.

Inspired by several posts I’ve seen (such as this one), I thought I’d identify what I’m teaching this semester. I have three full-semester classes, with plenty of reading in each of them:

1. Honors History of Western Civilization

Augustine, Confessions, trans. Garry Wills, (NY: Penguin Classics, 2008).

John Locke, 2nd Treatise on Government (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980).

Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche and the Death of God (Boston: Bedford/ St. Martins, 2006).

John Olin, ed. A Reformation Debate: John Calvin and Jacopo Sadoleto (NY: Fordham University Press, 2000).

Thomas West and Grace S. West, eds., Four Texts on Socrates (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1998).

Course Packet with LOTS of Primary Sources.

2. U.S. History to 1877

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave and Harriet Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (NY: The Modern Library, 2004).

John Fea, Was America Founded as a Christian Nation? (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011).

David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride (NY: Oxford University Press, 1994).

David Harrell, Jr., et. al, Unto a Good Land, Vol. I, To 1900 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005).

George Marsden, A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008).

LOTS of Primary Sources.

3. American Religious History (aka, Religion in American History)

Larry Eskridge, God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America (NY: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Edwin Gaustad and Mark Noll, eds., A Documentary History of Religion in America, 3rd edition, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003).

George Marsden, The Twilight of the American Enlightenment (NY: Basic Books, 2014).

Mark Massa, Catholics and American Culture: Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, and the Notre Dame Football Team (NY: Crossroad Publishing Co., 1999).

Chaim Potok, The Chosen (NY: Fawcett, 1987).

I’m excited for each class in its own way. I know from experience that each of them has the potential to be a great–even transformative–experience.

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