On Writing the History of the American Bible Society–Update #87

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I was not satisfied with the amount of time I put into my work on the American Bible Society project this morning.  I am still in this process of working on grant proposals for my sabbaticals next year and it is eating up a lot of time.  

Nevertheless, I did manage to get some nice framing ideas for Chapter Five from my reading this morning.  I finished Abzug’s Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the Religious Imagination and spent most of my time revisiting David Sehat’s The Myth of American Religious Freedom and Mark Noll’s America’s God.  I found Sehat’s idea of a “moral establishment” to be very useful as I think about the ABS’s role in the religious culture of the early nineteenth century. Noll’s book reminded me that organizations like the ABS were part of mainstream American life in this period.

I left my reading this morning with two unrelated thoughts.

1.  There is a major difference (at least for me) between reading a book in the midst of a major research project and reading a book for pleasure or simply to keep up with the field. More on that later.

2.  I am coming to the conclusion that there has not been a good overview of early nineteenth century evangelical benevolent societies in the United States since Charles Foster’s Errand of Mercy: The Evangelical United Front, 1790-1837.  Does anyone want to offer a title that is newer or more comprehensive?