Tag Archives: Early Republic

Eroding Biblical Certainty in Early America

I see that my last post came in…exactly one month ago. To which I can say, it’s been one of those months.

My monthly post for the Religion in American History blog just went live. In it, I give a quick review of Michael J. Lee’s Erosion of Biblical Certainty.

Having seen the manuscript at several points along its life, I’m thrilled to see this book in print. Lee pays close attention to how the Bible was read, understood, and defended in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This is an excellent study in the history of biblical criticism and the place of the Bible in American life. Along the way, Lee is offering a gentle rebuke to those biblical defenders who attempted to use the rationalist instruments of their critics to defend the Bible. He is suggesting that a healthier defense of inspiration comes from the assertion of faith within the confessing community.

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In the review, I also relate Lee’s book to Charles Taylor’s massive work A Secular Age. Lee might be read as offering a small piece of the secularization story Taylor tells. And, if we’re mentioning Taylor, let me suggest that people also be on the look-out for James K.A. Smith’s forthcoming book How (Not) to Be Secular.

Jump over and read the review here.

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Religion, National Identity, and Voluntary Societies in the Mid-Atlantic

Looking at my last post, I see the blog has been pretty quiet since early last month. That’s something to change in the New Year–although I hesitate to call it a “resolution.”

I can start off the year with some content, though.  I have a new post up at Religion in American History. This time, I’m writing a review of a book from 2007, called Many Identities, One Nation: The Revolution and Its Legacy in the Mid-Atlantic. I just recently came across the book, and I enjoyed it.

Anyway, click on over to read the review!

Many Identities, One Nation

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A New Semester II

Last month I reflected on teaching my Introductory U.S. History to 1877 class. (The post even got noticed here.)

Continuing my thoughts on the new semester, I thought I would give the same treatment to my “American Revolution and Early Republic” class. I go into this class assuming students have had an introduction to this period. As a result, I can go into greater detail. We are also able to look at the historiography of the period and actively debate both what was going on and how things have been interpreted.

This semester, I’m using a wide range of books to address various aspects of the period.

I’ve adopted a new narrative text for the class–Patrick Griffin’s America’s Revolution. Griffin’s book came out recently, and I was eager to give it a try. At the end of the semester, I’ll try to give a full review of this book. So far, I’ve really appreciated several aspects of Griffin’s presentation: the book’s readability, its transatlantic and international focus, its interpretation of issues of sovereignty and power, and its deep engagement with up-to-date scholarship.

For military matters, the class is reading David Hackett Fischer’s Washington’s Crossing. The book is long, but we’ve stretched out our treatment of it over two weeks. I think the text gives students some insights into military affairs and connections between military culture and broader cultures.

For religious matters, I’ve assigned Thomas Kidd’s God of Liberty. I appreciate that Kidd’s book looks at religious matters before, during, and after the Revolution. It thus helps me trace a narrative on the theme of religion across the chronology of the course. The book also reads smoothly, which is another benefit for undergraduates.

When we get to the Early Republic, we’ll use Joseph Ellis’s Founding Brothers as a springboard to get into the conflicts of the period. Ellis, too, reads well while making recognizable claims.

Throughout, we’re using a really interesting document collection, The American Republic, edited by Bruce Frohnen. The book is big (both physically and chronologically), but it contains many of the important documents from the period. I appreciate his selections.

I’ve also supplemented these readings with a variety of other digital and print selections, including Alfred Young’s depiction the shoemaker George Roberts Twelves Hewes, significant letters of the period, accounts from ordinary citizens, period literature and drama, additional sermons and orations, and interpretations from John Murrin, Jack Greene, and others.

It’s a full reading load, and I find myself constantly fighting the urge to assign more. It turns out there is a lot to learn about the period, and I want my students to get as much of it as possible.

So, for readers, what do you think? Any additional suggestions? What has worked well for you?

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