Earlier today I wrote about my debt to Paul Harvey, whose Religion in American History blog paved the way for this one. In this post I want to reflect a bit on the history of “The Way of Improvement Leads Home” and why I do what I do here.
After blogging at Religion in American History for about a year, I fell in love the genre. Blogging was a way of connecting my life-long interest in journalism and writing for public audiences with my training in history and my propensity to state my opinions about things. While I really appreciated what Paul was doing at Religion in American History (and still do), I also began to envision having a space of my own where I could write about things that did not directly relate to American religious history.
In July 2008 I decided to start “The Way of Improvement Leads Home” to help promote my new book by the same title. Initially, I envisioned the site as a place where I would talk about the book and its main character, Philip Vickers Fithian. If you go back and look, many of my earlier posts are centered around Fithian and speaking engagements related to the publication of the book.
I also hoped to use the blog as a way of keeping friends and family informed about my activity. My father and mother became two of my first regular readers! The first comment I received, by the way, came from Phil “Bald Blogger” Sinitiere.
Since then the blog has taken on a life of its own. I have tried to write in such a way that appeals to both academics and non-academic readers. This is not always easy and I am sure that academic readers often find the content to be a bit to “lite” while non-academic readers find some things to be of little interest. I have tried to narrow the subject matter to issues related to Christianity, American history, politics, and academic life, but I will occasionally throw in some Bruce Springsteen or anything else that I find entertaining. If I have the energy, I hope to continue the blog through the publication of my next book, “Was America Founded as a Christian Nation”: A Historical Primer.“
Who is my audience? I am not entirely sure. Whenever I am at a conference or speaking engagement I run into people that read the blog. This weekend in Louisville six or seven people mentioned that they read what I write. I am flattered by this, although I am guessing that most of them are not daily readers.
Most of the blog’s visitors arrive via Google. But I have also been able to garner a substantial group of regular readers. I find that there at least three kinds of people who read my blog. I try to write posts that cater to all of them.
First, there are historians–teaching professors and graduate students who are interested in early American history or American religious history. A subset of this group includes those who have read *The Way of Improvement Leads Home* or secondary and elementary school history teachers I have met while conducting seminars for the Gilder-Lehrman Institute.
Second, there are thoughtful Christians–those who want to learn more about the religious faith of the founding fathers or recent trends in American evangelicalism. A subset of this group includes those interested in ideas about “place”–a theme that plays a major part in my telling of Philip Vickers Fithian story.
Third, there are students–both my own students at Messiah College and students at other colleges and universities who tend to be attracted to posts dealing with the job market or what they can do with a history major or historical thinking. These are my most active and outspoken readers. They do not always post comments to the blog, but they e-mail privately or contact me via Facebook about my posts.
I am not sure how long I will continue blogging. I still enjoy doing it. When I no longer enjoy it I will stop. Since I have always done a lot of reading on the Internet and elsewhere I have found blogging to be a nice outlet for reflecting on what I have read. The dailiness of the blog can get tedious and tiresome at times, and I have thought about quitting on multiple occasions, but the enthusiasm of my readers keep me going. Thanks.