The Author’s Corner with John Smith

John Howard Smith is Professor of History at Texas A&M University-Commerce. This interview is based on his new book, A Dream of the Judgment Day: American Millennialism and Apocalypticism, 1620-1890 (Oxford University Press, 2021).

JF: What led you to write A Dream of the Judgement Day?

JS: It all started when I presented a paper on the eschatological aspects of the First Great Awakening and the American Revolution for the Center for Millennial Studies Fifth Annual Conference in 2000. At the end of our panel session, Richard Connors approached us and stated that he thought our session was one of the best of the entire conference, and that he would like to publish our papers in an edited volume for Brill Academic Publishers. The experience of refining my essay for that book, Anglo-American Millennialism, from Milton to the Millerites (2004), edited by Connors and Andrew Colin Gow, took what had been an interest in the history of eschatology in America and enlarged it to a significant aspect of my study of religious history. I touched upon it in my second book, The First Great Awakening: Redefining Religion in British America, 1725-1775 (2015), and I decided that a new study of the topic in American history was needed.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of A Dream of the Judgement Day?

JS: Millennialism and apocalypticism, rather than being relatively marginal aspects of American Christianity and American society, are in fact integral to these phenomena. They constitute core attributes of American culture, never far from our collective consciousness.

JF: Why do we need to read A Dream of the Judgement Day?

JS: In light of the intense political and cultural polarization in the United States today, particularly with regard to the incredible rise and popularity of the “Qanon” conspiracy theory that includes many tropes and imagery borrowed from evangelical Christian eschatology, Americans need a review. Scholarship on eschatology is comparatively thin in comparison to other aspects of the history of religion, and since the year 2000 has slumped. My book serves as a synthesis of the extant scholarship, and an expansion upon it and upon themes I discuss in The First Great Awakening. Belief in an end of the world in one way or another is more prevalent in the United States than anywhere else in the world, and previous scholarship has highlighted this in tightly focused periods, and Paul Boyer was just one of a very few who have ever attempted to cover the subject through the entirety of American history. A Dream of the Judgment Day provides a detailed synthesis of American eschatology from the beginnings of the British colonial period through the nineteenth century.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

JS: I looked at a horde of writings by known apocalypticists and millenarians such as Cotton Mather, Jonathan Edwards, Jemima Wilkinson, Joseph Smith, Jr. and William Miller, as well as the writings of more obscure figures such as Rebecca Jackson and Harriet Livermore. More importantly, I incorporated accounts by or about self-proclaimed prophets and movement founders such as Neolin, Tenskwatawa, Smoholla and Wovoka, as well as Nat Turner and Theophilus Gould Steward. I was slightly surprised by how much popular apocalypticism appeared in early American newspapers, while it was of course ubiquitous in the denominational newsletters and magazines of the nineteenth century. The primary source bibliography alone runs to 14 pages!

JF: What is your next project?

JS: Again, considering the unfolding of events in the last few months, I have decided that my next book should be a continuation of the story, with the working title Some Revelation at Hand: American Millennialism and Apocalypticism, 1890-2020. I plan to expand upon some key points made by Matthew Avery Sutton in his excellent book, American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism (2014), and update studies written by Boyer, Stephen D. O’Leary and Daniel Wojcik.

JF: Thanks, John!

The Author’s Corner with Jeanne Abrams

Jeanne Abrams is Professor at the University Libraries and the Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Denver. This interview is based on her new book, A View from Abroad: The Story of John and Abigail Adams in Europe (NYU Press, 2021).

JF: What led you to write A View from Abroad?

JA: I was first exposed to primary sources as a college freshman and had the good fortune to visit the New York Historical Society to work on a paper about Loyalists in the American Revolution. That launched me on a lifelong love affair with primary sources and a special interest in America’s founders. I examined certain aspects of the lives of John and Abigail Adams in my previous books, Revolutionary Medicine: The Founding Fathers and Mothers in Sickness and in Health and First Ladies of the Republic: Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, and Dolley Madison, and the Creation of an Iconic Role. I was so impressed with John and Abigail’s extraordinary descriptive writing skills and their commitment to the American public good. I wanted to find out more about their experiences during the time they spent in Europe.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of A View from Abroad?

JA: The European journeys of John and Abigail Adams not only influenced the course of their intellectual, political, and cultural development–transforming them from educated provincials to sophisticated world travelers–but most importantly served to strengthen their love and loyalty for America. Their story also helps demonstrate how they and their contemporaries set about supplanting their British origins with a new American identity.

JF: Why do we need to read A View from Abroad?

JA: My book details the ten years John spent in Europe and the four years in which Abigail joined him. Their experiences are fascinating on their own as a travelogue, but the book also gives us a bird’s eye view into life in Europe during the 18th century, from the opulent royal courts to how the poor struggled to simply put bread on the table. More importantly, it helps us understand the essence of the Adamses’ commitment to the American republican experiment and how hard they worked to try to ensure its success.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

JA: As I mentioned above, I became hooked on American history as an undergraduate. Since my parents were immigrants, I became fascinated with the early development of American history. I became particularly interested in narrative history, and my work has allowed me to combine many facets of American history, from the country’s founding, to the subject of immigration, and even medical history.

JF: What is your next project?

JA: Right now after having completed six books in the last 13 years, I am taking a little breather and concentrating on smaller projects in the form of articles.

JF: Thanks, Jeanne!

The Author’s Corner with Ben Wright

Ben Wright is Assistant Professor of History at The University of Texas at Dallas. This interview is based on his new book, Bonds of Salvation: How Christianity Inspired and Limited American Abolitionism (LSU Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Bonds of Salvation?

BW: My life project—the question that wakes me up in the middle of the night and that I plan to address with all of my future work—is studying how Christianity inspired people of faith to confront, or sadly too-often perpetuate, white supremacy. Exploring the abolitionist movement was an obvious starting point.

This specific project began when I kept encountering white Christians who privately attacked slavery yet never took any organized antislavery action. Understanding this seeming hypocrisy led me the ideologies of conversionism and purificationism, and then tracking the development and consequences of these ideologies gave me my narrative.

Finally, I will admit that history is a conversation between the past and present, and I absolutely used the process of writing this book to work through some of the moral failings of the evangelical world in which I grew up. Those interrogations took on a different tenor after the 2016 election.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Bonds of Salvation?

BW: Bonds of Salvation is the story of how Protestant Christianity, and its ideologies of conversionism and purificationism, both inspired and limited the development of American abolitionism. Dreams of expanding salvation formed some of the most powerful forces in creating the American nation and then only a few decades later, tore the country apart.

JF: Why do we need to read Bonds of Salvation?

BW: Perhaps it’s Midwestern humility or enduring imposter syndrome, but I’m wincing at the word “need.” One could certainly have a happy and fulfilling life without reading my book.

But… I do think my book attempts to address some very important questions about Christianity and American history: What does the kingdom of God look like? How do our religious communities balance looking within and without, salvation and holiness, evangelism and discipleship? How do we balance our desires for unity and our seeking justice? And ultimately, to invoke Frederick Douglass, what is the difference between the Christianity of this land and the Christianity of Christ?

On a more specific note, Bonds of Salvation makes a few historiographical interventions. First, it challenges the distinction in antislavery studies between gradualism and immediatism and instead offers a framework of conversionism and purificationism. Second, it argues for the centrality of conversionist Christianity in creating denominational bodies that fostered and nearly destroyed the American nation. Third, it centers missionary debates in the debate over the American Colonization Society, the national organization that sought to solve the problem of slavery and expand salvation by resettling Black Americans in Liberia.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

BW: I had many outstanding mentors. To name just a few: Diana Magnuson at Bethel University foregrounded historiographical change in her undergraduate classes. The realization that history was not the recounting of dry facts but rather an invitation to an evolving conversation ignited something in me. Randall Balmer, then at Columbia, rescued an overwhelmed and outgunned MA student, and made me believe that I was capable of doing meaningful work. John Boles at Rice set an example of diligent scholarship and generous collegiality. The best advice I ever received about wanting to become a historian was, “don’t do it.” Only after really understanding the difficulty of the work and the obstacles of a nearly impossible job market did I realize that I needed to at least try to find a career reading, writing, and teaching history.

JF: What is your next project?

BW: My next monograph will build on the work I’ve done on the colonization movement and delve more deeply into how British and American missionaries crafted visions for empire that led to colonization in West Africa.

I also stay pretty busy maintaining (and hopefully soon extending) my textbook project, The American Yawp. I’m really interested in both the intellectual implications and practical applications of the digital humanities. Joseph Locke (my American Yawp co-editor) and I have a piece that underwent an open review from the AHR about those issues (see ahropenreview.com). We hope to extend that analysis in some other works.

And in honor of this excellent blog’s founder, I’ll admit that, at least in my head, I’m frequently humming “Reason to Believe” and rewriting a series of essays on religion and Bruce Springsteen.

JF: Thanks, Ben!

Anyone interested in buying Bonds of Salvation can use the promo code 04READHOME for 40% off from The Louisiana State University Press.

The Author’s Corner with Richard Boles

Richard Boles is Assistant Professor of History at Oklahoma State University. This interview is based on his new book, Dividing the Faith: The Rise of Segregated Churches in the Early American North (NYU Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Dividing the Faith?

RB: My interest in this topic and the primary research questions for Dividing the Faith developed from my work as a Park Ranger at the Boston African American National Historic Site. The African Meeting House, which was constructed in 1806 as the place of worship for Boston’s first African American church, is the centerpiece of this National Historic Site. I knew enslaved Africans were brought to Boston as early as 1638, so I wondered about African American church attendance throughout the colonial era. I was unsatisfied with the existing scholarly explanations for African American religious practices in New England before the African Meeting House opened. I also noticed some African Americans in the mid-nineteenth century who attended predominantly white churches instead of the Black Baptist or Methodist congregations. I wondered why some African Americans chose to affiliate with mostly white churches. In subsequent years, Professor David Silverman taught me the importance of including Native Americans in any analysis of racial categories in early America, which broadened my research scope. I eventually surveyed the records of more than four hundred congregations looking for racial notations to answer these questions.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Dividing the Faith?

RB: African Americans and Native Americans regularly affiliated with a range of eighteenth-century northern churches, which means that these churches were more interracial than historians have assumed and that when they divided along racial lines, churches implicitly gave moral sanction to the widespread segregation in northern society by the 1830s. The origins of African American and Indigenous forms of Christianity were diverse and multifaceted as these peoples often participated in Congregational, Anglican, Lutheran, and Reformed churches and not merely revivalist Baptist and Methodist ones.

JF: Why do we need to read Dividing the Faith?

RB: This book is the first to recover so fully the history of African American and Native American affiliation in Protestant churches across the entire northern region. How Sunday morning became “the most segregated time” in American life was not simply a linear story of declension. Rather, it was a complex and dynamic history replete with fascinating individuals, including Phillis Wheatley, Lemuel Haynes, Samson Occom, William Apess, and many less-well-known people, who made religious choices that defied the common patterns and assumptions of American society. By scrutinizing similar and dissimilar experiences of Blacks and Indians, this book also contributes to the growing historiography on the construction of racial identities in early America and shows the need to treat churches as influential social institutions, not just religious ones. The construction of racial identities in churches affected and reflected broader social changes. The extent of interracial interactions in northern churches challenges truisms about northern states that have fed into Americans’ racial consciousness, and so this study furthers the reintegration of northern churches within the history of racism in America. 

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

RB: As far back as I can remember, I have always loved learning and reading about American history. My mother was a history major, and when I was young, my family and I often visited museums and historical sites across different regions of America. By the time I enrolled at Boston College, I knew I wanted to study history, but I was unsure what I would do next. After finishing my BA and MA degrees in American history, I began working in historic preservation and part-time for the Park Service. While giving history walking tours of Boston’s Black Heritage Trail as a Park Ranger, I discovered that I enjoyed teaching and explaining the stories of remarkable Americans such as David Walker, William C. Nell, Maria Stewart, and others.

JF: What is your next project?

RB: My next project will examine the ways African Americans and Native Americans frequently influenced the religious practices in each other’s communities during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The field of American religious history and explanations for the origins of African American and Native American churches usually have privileged Euro-American missionaries. Despite the challenges of limited source materials, I see this project as an opportunity to focus on diverse religious lives and choices of African Americans and Native Americans.

JF: Thanks, Richard!

The Author’s Corner with Kirsten Fischer

Kirsten Fischer is Associate Professor of History at the University of Minnesota. This interview is based on her new book, American Freethinker: Elihu Palmer and the Struggle for Religious Freedom in the New Nation (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write American Freethinker?

KF: Elihu Palmer was notorious in his own day, but after he died in 1806, he fell into relative obscurity. When I first encountered his book, Principles of Nature, I found it strange and confusing. Palmer kept talking about a unified material world infused with a divine life force, and he was sure these “principles of nature” mattered enormously for human happiness. Only when I read the works of the obscure authors he quoted at length, did I begin to understand that Palmer had been influenced by vitalist physiology coming out of medical circles in Europe, and also by Eastern religions as represented to him by a world-traveling Englishman. John “Walking” Stewart had traveled to India and Thailand, and he shared with Palmer the power of meditation to grasp the unified whole of the universe. Stewart persuaded Palmer that the smallest particles of matter are sensate, meaning they experience and retain sensations like pleasure and pain. These particles are constantly in motion, and as they jump from one thing to the next, they carry sensation with them. This idea changed everything, Palmer thought, because it meant that in the interconnected web of life, every individual action affects the whole. I found the idea fascinating, not least because it upends notions of who and what merits compassion and respect.

At first, I thought I could write only about Palmer’s ideas, not the man himself, because Palmer left very little in terms of a personal archive, really just a few letters. We did not even know the name of his hometown in Connecticut. Then it occurred to me to look in the archives of people who might have known him, ministers who opposed him, for example. Their letters led me to information about Palmer’s movements and his activities. I traveled to Connecticut and used lists of names engraved on headstones to search for Palmer families buried in small-town cemeteries. Once I found his family headstones in a tiny village, I could use local church and land records to fill in blanks about Palmer’s family and his upbringing. To my immense good fortune, I even found the manuscript diary kept by Palmer’s childhood minister. Putting together the many tiny pieces I found, I was able to write a new and accessible biography of this very colorful figure in the early Republic.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of American Freethinker?

KF: American Freethinker recovers Palmer’s long-forgotten notion that everything in the universe is connected in a special way—through sensitive atoms in constant exchange—which means that everything ultimately partakes of the same, shared fate. The book shows that in sharing his religiously unorthodox ideas in the face of social pressure to desist, Palmer expanded in practice the freedom of speech that was aspirational but not yet guaranteed in the early American Republic.

JF: Why do we need to read American Freethinker?

KF: In writing the book, I came to understand that the new United States was born with divergent impulses. Religious pluralism flourished, but so too did anxiety about the public expression of that diversity. We see some of these tensions still today. The ability to accept, never mind welcome, religious diversity remains a challenge for many, even as the country is irrepressibly diverse. Americans continue to accuse one another of harboring religious beliefs incompatible with patriotism. Palmer’s life story shows how religious freethought developed in tandem with the efforts to contain it. The struggle persists, it waxes and wanes, and it might be with us for a long time.

The reader also learns, as I did, that the early United States was full of freethinkers. Palmer was in conversation with all kinds of people, and the book reveals new characters and unfamiliar religious contests. Religious freethought did not necessarily mean rejecting Christianity. Many people—including Palmer himself, initially—pursued freethought from within Christian frameworks. Palmer preached in Universalist churches until he was refused access to the pulpit. He did eventually break with Christianity, after he was slandered in the press for advertising a lecture against the divinity of Jesus.

Palmer reached for creative new answers to pressing questions: How to achieve social justice and equality without incurring violence? How to have a shared morality without relying on a shared religious foundation? And how to recognize the interdependence of all life on the planet Earth? These questions remain relevant today. In a world riven by inequality, political disagreement, racialized violence, and climate change, we need to find common ground amidst our differences. Palmer banked on a transformative psychology, one based on the recognition of a shared fate in an interconnected web of life. His answers may not be ours, but he was asking questions that still await creative solutions, and he did it with a passion and an optimism I find inspiring.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

KF: After living in Germany as a teenager, I returned to my native United States in the 1980s, only to be shocked by the racial segregation I experienced in Boston, Massachusetts. Watching the “Eyes on the Prize” documentary series in 1987, I decided to attend graduate school to study the Civil Rights Movement along with the tenacious racism that made courageous action so necessary. Pursuing the roots of racism led me to the eighteenth century and the development of racial thinking in a slave society. My first book, Suspect Relations: Sex, Race, and Resistance in Colonial North Carolina, shows how intimate relationships among ordinary people—white, free black, and enslaved—and the laws that either outlawed or overlooked these relationships, codified the racial hierarchy and made race seem real. Over the course of my career, my research topics have changed, depending on which current social and political questions seem most compelling and in need of historicizing. Underlying all my work is a fascination with the experiences of otherwise unknown “ordinary” people who participated in struggles of historic importance—struggles that have remained unresolved into the present time.

JF: What is your next project?

KF: My next project is a hybrid of memoir and archivally researched family history. Titled “Unfamiliar Truths: A Bicultural Family Narrates its Twentieth-Century German Past,” the book explores the four generations of my father’s German family that experienced displacement through two world wars, the country’s political division, and voluntary migration. I want to know what they experienced, and how their stories have shaped my own understanding of home and belonging.

JF: Thanks, Kirsten!

The Author’s Corner with Andrew Lang

Andrew Lang is Associate Professor of History and Graduate Coordinator at Mississippi State University. This interview is based on his new book, A Contest of Civilizations: Exposing the Crisis of American Exceptionalism in the Civil War Era (The University of North Carolina Press, 2021).

JF: What led you to write A Contest of Civilizations?

AL: I wrote A Contest of Civilizations to recover what I consider the central theme of nineteenth-century American history: an overwhelming contemporary sense that the United States was a unique, destined, and exceptional democratic republic that lived within a rotting, oppressive monarchical world. While the concept of American exceptionalism may seem problematic to some modern audiences—and I do not attempt to validate or prove exceptionalist arguments in the book—it is important to take seriously how and why Americans of a prior era considered their nation, its founding, its Constitution, and its democracy the zenith of modern political enterprises. Only then can we fully grasp the complex reasons why Americans waged a bloody civil war over the very existence, meaning, and fate of their self-proclaimed exceptional republic.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of A Contest of Civilizations?

AL: A diverse cast of nineteenth-century Americans regarded the United States as the pinnacle nation within the modern world. But the commanding place of slavery within a republic of liberty imposed contested and increasingly irreconcilable understandings of American exceptionalism, contributing to the coming, conduct, and consequences of the Civil War, a conflict that tested, as Abraham Lincoln said, whether the United States would remain “the last best, hope of earth.”

JF: Why do we need to read A Contest of Civilizations?

AL: The book can be read as a meditation on the turbulent events that we face today as a national people. While I make no claim about the veracity of American exceptionalism, generations of Americans have imagined the United States as a unique republic that balances individual liberty and conceives new births of freedom. But the book also reveals that the American experience has never been so idyllic. Implementing the national mission has often been riddled with paradox, contradiction, and shortcoming. And yet, the book reminds us that the enduring ideals of universal equality and liberty establish standards for all generations to strive for a more perfect Union. It should offer a sober reminder that the United States does not, and never has, enjoyed an inevitable destiny, one immune from historical evolution. The nation’s survival instead depends on a citizenry committed to preserving the enduring principles of American life, lest those values fade from our own malevolence or neglect.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

AL: When I enrolled in college twenty years ago, I never imagined a life as a historian. I did not even know what it meant to study history. However, the first course in which I enrolled—the American history survey from the colonial era through Reconstruction—captivated my imagination. Even as a first-year student, I did not consider majoring in history. But that course stuck with me as I dabbled in other majors. The content made sense. The questions penetrated my curious mind. And the professor—my first mentor and now a lifelong friend—inspired me with his dynamic teaching style and passion for chronicling the past. As my second year concluded, I visited with him about the prospect of majoring in history. Doing so was among the best decisions I have ever made. I knew then that I wanted to be a college professor and author. And twenty years later, I now attempt to instill in my own students the same spark that my first professor inspired in me.

JF: What is your next project?

AL: I am in the formative stages of a project that explores Abraham Lincoln’s concept of Union and his philosophy of history. Lincoln regarded the Union as a historical concept, a political/legal/perpetual concept, a social concept, a contested concept, an exceptional, contingent concept. For Lincoln, there was nothing inevitable about the Union’s enduring survival. The republic could always disappear depending on the citizenry’s shifting attitudes. The Union and its citizenry thus had to stay true to the spirit of the American founding. Ironies abound in the ways Lincoln considered the Union. He argued for the republic’s perpetual political nature while also conceding that the Union itself could accommodate radical, fundamental changes like emancipation in the service of its own perpetuity. The Union was thus a historical force, one that functioned at once in the past and in the present, both in service to the “vast future.”

JF: Thanks, Andrew!

The Author’s Corner with Evan Haefeli

Evan Haefeli is Associate Professor of History at Texas A&M University. This interview is based on his new book, Against Popery: Britain, Empire, and Anti-Catholicism (University of Virginia Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Against Popery?

EH: I was inspired to put this book together after working for years on the history of religious tolerance in early America. I came across so much more anti-Catholicism than tolerance that it became clear we needed a book to draw our attention to its significance and pervasiveness. Early American anti-popery was so deeply rooted in the British tradition that you cannot understand the one without the other. Moreover, it is such a big topic that no single person can account for the whole, so I recruited an interdisciplinary group of people from (and working on) both sides of the Atlantic.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Against Popery?

EH: The two sentence argument of the book: Anti-popery was a Protestant prejudice against Roman Catholics but also an unstable ideology of liberty. Its rejection of the political and religious example of the pope favored Protestant cultural hegemony across the Anglo-American world until the mid-eighteenth century, when efforts to enhance imperial authority provoked anti-papists in America to start a revolution that, ironically, increased liberty for Roman Catholics on both sides of the Atlantic.

JF: Why do we need to read Against Popery?

EH: You should read this book because we need to incorporate anti-popery as an essential key for understanding early America and the British Empire. It is already recognized as an important issue in early modern English history, but it was truly inseparable from the religion, popular culture, political ideals, ethnic relations, racism, gender expectations, patriotism, intellectual habits, and art of all corners of what I call the British-American world. The book is also an argument for changing the way we approach the histories of early America, Britain, Ireland, and the first British Empire. Currently, those are separate fields of study based on different national histories, but certainly for the period before 1783 they must be understood as an integrated whole. How it then fell apart remains a problem in need of explanation. Anti-popery was fundamental to understanding both what held the British-American world together and then broke it apart.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

EH: I was drawn to study American history at the end of college, when I discovered how little we knew about the Native American experience and how fascinatingly complex early America was. I was inspired to go to graduate school to expand our knowledge of Native America and develop an inclusive approach to American history that can account for, and be accountable to, its diversity — the coexistence as well as the conflicts that bind us all together.

JF: What is your next project?

EH: I have a lot of work coming down the pipeline. In February I have a book coming out on the origins of early American religious pluralism with the University of Chicago Press. It traces the establishment of the remarkably diverse range of colonies created, from Massachusetts and Maryland to Rhode Island and more, to the religious politics of early modern England to argue that what we got by the time the foundation of the modern Church of England was laid in 1662 was the unintentional result of conflicting impulses. There was no plan to make colonial English America a religious refuge or lay a foundation of religious pluralism, but that is exactly what happened, hence the books title Accidental Pluralism. Now I am writing about the even more important period after 1660, when the really diverse colonies that deliberately authorized religious toleration, like New York, Pennsylvania, and Carolina, were created. Their origins lie in the very different religious politics of Restoration England, hence my tentative title Pluralism with a Purpose. I have also begun writing a history of the Iroquois Confederacy and how it made peace with its many Indigenous enemies in colonial America, transforming the diplomacy of the eastern woodlands. Then, of course, I will have much more to say about the role of anti-popery in early America, which I am currently developing in several different articles along with a study of the religious politics of colonial Virginia.

Overall, these works are part of a bigger effort to change our understanding of religious, political, and constitutional history of the colonies, the empire, and the early United States to show that we did not easily come by the values we cherish, like religious freedom, nor can we rely on them to persist as somehow intrinsically American qualities. Their origins were fragile, conflicted, and not inevitable, just like the origins of America itself.

JF: Thanks, Evan!

The Author’s Corner with Lisa Tucker

Lisa Tucker is Associate Professor of Law at Drexel University. This interview is based on her new book, Hamilton and the Law: Reading Today’s Most Contentious Legal Issues through the Hit Musical (Cornell University Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Hamilton and the Law?

LT: My then-high-school-junior daughter and I were on a road trip, visiting colleges across the Northeast. It was a long week, with lots of miles covered, and we were listening to musical soundtracks and singing along to our favorites. This was the spring of 2018, and so Hamilton was still very much the darling of the moment.

As we listened for about the hundredth time, it suddenly occurred to me that the musical was really an evidentiary record, a narrative of events that led up to the duel in which Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton. The various characters offer their various points of view about what occurred, what fostered and fueled the rivalry between these two men. As we drove, my daughter and I started taking notes: Who said what? Would their statements be admissible as evidence? Did the choreography give us any clues as to who intended what? What did the witnesses say?

For an entire week, we worked on our legal theories.

As we brainstormed, I began to realize that Hamilton, as a story about the Founding and the drafting of the Constitution, surely introduced other legal themes that other scholars with diverse interests would find intriguing. Once I started talking to lawyer and law professor friends about my idea, I found that I was right: they were almost as excited as I was. It turned out, they were, like me, obsessed with Hamilton: An American Musical.

I posted a call for proposals on Facebook, and I immediately got several dozen essay proposals. It looked like I had a book! This wasn’t just a fly-by-night idea; the musical was very meaningful to lawyers and law professors who studied the Founding and the America that followed.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Hamilton and the Law?

LT: Hamilton and the Law argues that the musical has many legal lessons to teach us, many debates to engage us. The word “duel” has multiple meanings in the musical; while a duel with pistols ends the musical, the entire three hours leading up to it consist of ideological duels about society, history, and liberty.

JF: Why do we need to read Hamilton and the Law?

LT: If you’re a fan of Hamilton: An American Musical, you’re probably gobbling up everything you can find about the musical, even five years after its Broadway premiere. And even if you aren’t a lawyer, you’ll be intrigued by the arguments the contributors make. The essays are short–around 2500 words each–and written in a style designed for smart, educated readers who aren’t necessarily lawyers. The essay authors are leaders in their fields: race scholars, gender and sexuality scholars, immigration law scholars, Constitutional law scholars, intellectual property experts, former Solicitors General of the United States. They are male and female; black, white, and brown; younger and older; famous and relatively unknown (yet); liberal and conservative; affiliated with prestigious and lesser-ranked institutions. Their perspectives make for a fascinating read about the Founding through the lens of the musical.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian? (Or if you are not an American historian, how did you get interested in the study of the past?)

LT: I am not an American historian, but a law professor who was a drama major in college. I love all things law and all things musical theater. When Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote Hamilton: An American Musical, it was like a dream come true. Although I knew a lot about the Constitution and the Founding, the musical inspired me to learn more.

JF: What is your next project?

LT: I’ve been writing for a few years about issues surrounding open adoption, gender dynamics in family law, and domestic violence. I have an article coming out next month about the role of contract law in open adoption arrangements. Last summer, I taught a course at the Chautauqua Institution about Hamilton and the law; I hope to develop that curriculum into something that can be adopted by high school and higher education teachers.

JF: Thanks, Lisa!

The Author’s Corner with John Oldfield

John Oldfield is Professor of Emancipation and Slavery at The University of Hull. This interview is based on his new book, The Ties that Bind: Transatlantic Abolitionism in the Age of Reform, c. 1820-1866 (Liverpool University Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write The Ties that Bind?

JO: I wrote The Ties that Bind in an attempt to challenge more orthodox histories that tend to place antislavery within narrow national contexts, whether American exceptionalism, in the case of the USA, or Britain’s history of humanitarian interventionism. Antislavery, I argue, should be seen as an international movement that rested on dense networks that brought together activists on both sides of the Atlantic. American abolitionists, particularly so-called “second wave” reformers like William Lloyd Garrison, relied heavily on British antecedents and borrowed many of their ideas, whether it was their use of “agents” or antislavery lecturers, the pledging of “parliamentary” candidates or the importance of grass-roots organization. But these influences also flowed the other way and part of my intention in The Ties that Bind was to explore how figures like Garrison influenced British activists, George Thompson being an obvious case in point. There were always limits to international co-operation, perhaps most evident in British reactions to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852). For some British reformers, American abolitionism would always seem too sensationalist, too “popular” and even potentially dangerous. This is what Garrison was getting at when he said that British abolitionists “walked in silver slippers.” Antislavery in Britain, he went on, had “never been tried in the fiery furnace, nor compelled to encounter a single storm of persecution, and therefore is no more a test of English character, than is the opposition of Americans to a monarchical form of government.” So, while there were obvious affinities here, there were also important differences. Finally, I wanted to explore the related question of opinion-building, the processes whereby activists turned an idea (that slavery was wrong) into a social movement. This, again, is a transatlantic story but one not without its stresses and strains, as the British reaction to things such as antislavery songs and antislavery performers makes abundantly clear.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of The Ties that Bind?

JO: Simply put, The Ties that Bind argues that we should see antislavery as an international movement based on close ties that bound together activists on both sides of the Atlantic. Adopting an interdisciplinary approach, it stresses the importance of opinion-building techniques and, above all, the role of personality in shaping the abolitionist world of the nineteenth century.

JF: Why do we need to read The Ties that Bind?

JO: I think two points are relevant here. The Ties that Bind, like my previous books, makes the case for seeing antislavery as an international movement. Abolitionists, from Granville Sharp to William Lloyd Garrison, saw themselves as “citizens of the universe” and that outlook dictated their political outlooks, as well as the policy choices they made. American abolitionists learned a great deal from their British counterparts and Garrison, in particular, played on these Atlantic affinities; hence his preoccupation with celebrating 1 August, the anniversary of emancipation in the British Caribbean. Of course, American abolitionism was always more than a pale imitation of British antislavery but it is instructive, I think, to stress the importance of these international “connections.” My second point leads on from the first. One of the things I was keen to do in The Ties that Bind was to emphasize the importance of antislavery for activists today and for broader histories of humanitarianism. I think there are a number of issues at play here. One is the importance of grass-roots organization. On both sides of the Atlantic, abolitionists created complex networks that linked center to periphery, being careful at the same time to give rank-and-file members a chance to air their views. This mix between guidance and independence, I would argue, kept the movement fresh and relevant, and it is a model that has been adopted successfully elsewhere, notably in US campaigns around gun rights, tobacco control and drunk-driving reduction. Another crucial factor, which again has implications for activists today, was the willingness of abolitionists (not all of them, admittedly) to engage with electoral politics. Historians may question the effectiveness of the Liberty Party, to take an obvious example, but there is little doubt in my mind that such initiatives helped to divorce the federal government from the idea of slavery. Finally, as I have already said, antislavery was an international movement, based on close ties that bound together British and American reformers in dense transatlantic networks. Indeed, cosmopolitanism was an important dynamic within nineteenth-century abolitionism, evident in common political attitudes and assumptions that flowed from east to west and from west to east. In this sense, antislavery was never a parochial British or American affair, any more than the US Civil Rights Movement or the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa were narrow parochial affairs.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

JO: I was an undergraduate in the UK during the 1970s, a decade that seemed to be dominated by the USA, not always for the right reasons. Whether it was the Vietnam War or the unfolding drama surrounding the Watergate break-in, it was difficult not to be affected by these events in some way, inside or outside the classroom. The 1970s also witnessed a remarkable outpouring of revisionist studies of US slavery, from John Blassingame’s The Slave Community (1972) to Eugene Genovese’s magisterial Roll, Jordan, Roll (1974). Collectively, these books not only seemed to speak to the contemporary situation in the USA but also to break new ground, not least in their use of sources (slave narratives, for instance) and their openness to other disciplinary approaches. As a result, I found myself drawn to courses on US history and to anything that dealt with the American South or slavery, race, and identity. I guess this was the start of my journey towards becoming an American historian. After graduating, I went on to graduate school, choosing to write my PhD thesis on the nineteenth-century black leader, Alexander Crummell (1819-1898). Over the past forty years, my research interests have broadened and today I would consider myself as much a historian of the Atlantic World, as an American historian. I have also developed a lifelong interest in the history of antislavery, both at a national and international level. But I have always taught US history and in many ways The Ties that Bind marks a return to many of the themes that first excited me as an undergraduate.

JF: What is your next project?

JO: Good question! I am currently co-editing a volume on European colonial heritage, which should appear in the second half of 2021. Beyond that, I want to build on the work I did in The Ties that Bind on William Lloyd Garrison and George Thompson, using it as a template to explore other transatlantic friendships that centered on reform. Then there is the ongoing debate here in the UK about the history and legacy of slavery, which is bound to quicken in pace as we inch ever closer to 2033 and the bicentenary of emancipation in the British Caribbean. Now more than ever there is a need for an “integrated” history of British antislavery, which not only commemorates the achievements of people like William Wilberforce but also recognizes Britain’s deep and tragic involvement in both the slave trade and the wider business of slavery.

JF: Thanks, John!

The Author’s Corner with Richard Pointer

Richard Pointer is Professor Emeritus of History at Westmont College. This interview is based on his new book, Pacifist Prophet: Papunhank and the Quest for Peace in Early America (University of Nebraska Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Pacifist Prophet?

RP: As sometimes happens, this book, and more specifically Papunhank, found me rather than the other way around. I was doing some research on Pennsylvania-Native American relations in the 1750s and ‘60s and he kept popping up in a range of Quaker, Moravian and government source materials. I also began to notice his name briefly mentioned in a few recent secondary accounts. But it quickly became clear that no one had yet put together the various pieces of his life. Two considerations eventually persuaded me to attempt a biography: first and foremost, I discovered his to be an utterly fascinating and important story that should change some of what we think about Indigenous peoples in early America; and second, reconstructing his life offered a chance to put a small dent in the ongoing preoccupation of early American biography with white men.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Pacifist Prophet?

RP: In a mid-eighteenth century world filled with political turmoil, racial hatred, and deadly violence, Papunhank, like most Native Americans, sought a secure homeland for his people. But unlike most Indigenous leaders and prophets, he rejected warfare and promoted a principled pacifism that kept hundreds of his followers alive and contributed to a longer and wider Indian peace tradition.

JF: Why do we need to read Pacifist Prophet?

RP: In reconstructing Papunhank’s remarkable story, Pacifist Prophet reveals a heretofore largely overlooked Indigenous peacemaking tradition and in the process, widens our vision of the possibilities and limits Native peoples encountered in pre-Revolutionary America. In other words, it recovers an essential piece of Native American heritage and American history. As we consider our own cultural moment, Papunhank’s leadership model of self-sacrificial, dignified, morally-grounded service may be worth a look, especially in a world so much in need of being reminded that as Papunhank himself put it “when God made Men he never intend[ed] they should kill or destroy one another.” Moreover, the typical impression in the popular mind continues to be that Indians everywhere and always (or at least until 1890) were warlike. Either by nature, cultural inclination, or political necessity, they had to be. But it turns out that most Native peoples across the long span of early American history avoided war whenever they could. Instead, they, more quietly, pursued peaceful ways to cope with the new realities facing them after the Europeans’ arrival. Few did more or tried harder along those lines than Papunhank. His life, though extraordinary in the choices he made, was far more typical of what most Natives experienced in early America than the handful of Indians from this era (think Pocahontas and Squanto) familiar to Americans today.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

RP: When asked this question, I always point back to childhood family vacations to historic sites along the East Coast that left me equating history and fun. That seed was then nurtured by excellent junior high and high school American history teachers, enough so that I went to college certain that I wanted to major in history. There my love of the subject and especially early American history grew. Completing a major research project on seventeenth-century Connecticut during my senior year gave me a much better idea of what historians actually do and helped persuade me to pursue graduate school in history. So, too, did the example of my older brother, Steve, who by that point was working on a PhD in history. When the opportunity came along for me to study at Johns Hopkins University, I grabbed it, not quite knowing what I was in for or where I was headed but convinced that a life in academia teaching and writing American history would be a worthy calling.

JF: What is your next project?

RP: Well, I’ve just retired in the last few months from my faculty position at Westmont College so my main project at the moment is figuring out what retirement will look like. So far it is feeling very good, even in the midst of the pandemic. The latter, of course, is making research much more difficult. But I have begun preliminary work on the question, how did the Seven Years’ War shape or re-shape religion in America? Over the past couple of decades, early American historians have come to see that war as far more pivotal in “making America” than previously thought. I’m curious to see if that was true for religion as well. Historians of religion in mid-eighteenth century America have tended to be preoccupied with the First Great Awakening and then the American Revolution, typically skipping over the Seven Years’ War. Yet I suspect that long conflict did much to set the trajectory of religion in America toward disestablishment, anti-Catholicism, evangelical expansion, racial exclusivity, and apocalyptic hope. Perhaps someday we’ll even say that it was the war that “made American religion.”

JF: Thanks, Rick!

The Author’s Corner with Donald Johnson

Donald Johnson is Assistant Professor of History at North Dakota State University. This interview is based on his new book, Occupied America: British Military Rule and the Experience of Revolution (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Occupied America?

DJ: As with many first books, I began the project in graduate school. During the spring of 2010 I was studying the American Revolution and had a general interest in popular politics during the eighteenth century, and I needed a research seminar topic. In addition to history I am also a news junkie, and it also happened to be the time period when the utter failure of US occupation in Iraq was becoming clear to the public. This got me thinking about how military-civilian relationships might have affected the outcome of the American Revolutionary War. I realized there had been little written about this aspect of the Revolutionary experience, so I decided to do an initial exploration of the 1780-82 British occupation of Charleston, South Carolina. That research made me realize there was a much larger story to be told about how the experience of military occupation shaped the Revolution for thousands of Americans, especially in major port cities, and I decided to pursue it.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Occupied America?

DJ: Occupied America argues that the day-to-day experience of military rule doomed efforts to restore the empire in America. As men and women living in port cities endured the privations, violence, and social upheavals that accompanied the arrival of British troops, and as occupations progressed took ever more drastic measures to protect their lives, families, and property, they undermined royal authority and, in so doing, played a crucial role in securing American independence.

JF: Why do we need to read Occupied America?

DJ: Occupied America re-centers discussion of the American Revolution on the war period and on individual experiences of ordinary men and women. With the exception of military histories, narratives of the Revolution typically ignore the war period — either stopping at 1776 or skipping forward to the 1780s and the Confederation. This is a major problem, as the war lasted eight years and fundamentally changed the course and outcomes of the Revolution. This is an anomaly in Revolutionary studies–indeed, few historians would discuss the French or Russian Revolutions without dealing in depth with the wars that they spawned. Rather than taking John Adams’s dictum that the war was an after-effect of an already completed revolution, then, Occupied America, along with several other recently- and soon-to-be- published works, explores this period as just as formative for the Revolution and its legacies as the growth of resistance during the 1760s and early 1770s or the consolidation of the republic in the late 1780s and 90s.

Occupied America also highlights personal experience and contingency as a major factor in the deciding the outcome of the Revolution. Too often histories of political upheaval have focused on the persuasive power of ideology in shaping people’s political views and determining their actions. However, in the Revolutionary period as in the present, most people were more concerned with everyday, mundane matters like earning an living, supporting family and friends, pursuing love affairs, and maintaining their good standing in society. While ideology played a powerful role in shaping the course of events, so too did these more quotidian concerns, which varied as widely as individual circumstances did. As a proof of this–take allegiance. Although labels of patriot, loyalist, Whig, and Tory were often thrown around, my work shows that these dissolved quickly in the face of lived experience. This kind of popular politics needs to be further explored before we can understand the why and how of the Revolution, and I hope that my book contributes in some small part to that project.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

DJ: In some ways it was fore-ordained. I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and spent my summers exploring the Smithsonian museums of American and Natural history, fascinated by the seemingly endless stories of the past. I later began devouring historical fiction and taking courses in high school in college, which led me to my present vocation.

JF: What is your next project?

DJ: My current project is a detailed study of small-scale revolutionary politics during the time period between the outbreak of violence in April 1775 and the Declaration of Independence in July 1776. I’m looking at how people living in ordinary communities–mostly rural counties and small towns–reacted to the outbreak of war and took part in the rejection of royal rule in their own locales. We have a lot of information about how the provincial elites who formed the Continental Congress and the state conventions acted during this period, but little about how the transfer of authority took place in lower-level, local contexts. This is significant, as many sources suggest that local militias, town councils, church congregations, and self-appointed committees drove events as much or even moreso than leaders who sought to organize them into a wider inter-colonial resistance. My new project, still in its early stages, seeks to parse those relationships and restore the agency of ordinary men and women in overthrowing the British Empire and initiating American independence.

JF: Thanks, Donald!

The Author’s Corner with Libra Hilde

Libra Hilde is Professor of History at San Jose State University. This interview is based on her new book, Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty in African American Communities over the Long Nineteenth Century (The University of North Carolina Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty?

LH: In one of my undergraduate courses, I ask my students to write a paper comparing the slave narratives of Harriet Jacobs and Frederick Douglass. The idea for Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty emerged from repeatedly confronting the disjuncture between these two authors’ experiences. Despite being quite young when her enslaved father passed away, Jacobs attributed her sense of humanity and will to achieve liberty to his influence. Douglass could only guess at the identity of an unknown white father who never acknowledged or took responsibility for his enslaved child. I found this contrast fascinating and set out to explore how enslaved people conceived of and negotiated paternal duty within the constraints of slavery and Jim Crow.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty?

LH: Denied the ability to directly provide for and protect loved ones, enslaved men often found alternative ways to care for and support their children, exerting their influence through advice, ideas, and religious counsel, immaterial means over which slaveholders had less control. This book counters persistent stereotypes of African American families and absent, irresponsible Black fathers, showing that because enslaved and then freed men did not have access to open patriarchal authority, much of their care-taking behavior has remained hidden.

JF: Why do we need to read Slavery, Fatherhood, and Paternal Duty?

LH: Recent events and the racial reckoning we face in this country have underscored the destructive impact of misconceptions about Black masculinity and the African American family that are an ongoing legacy of slavery. In order to appreciate the variability and adaptability of the enslaved family, we need to look beyond household structure and normative definitions of family and fatherhood and instead look at how kin units actually functioned. It is also important to understand the public/private and hierarchical nature of Southern masculinity and how such assumptions continue to shape American attitudes. While only white men in the Old South had access to public definitions and the display of manhood, enslaved men were frequently allowed to exhibit attributes of masculinity within the confines of the plantation, especially when this arrangement profited the slaveholder. Enslaved men faced painful, intractable dilemmas and yet many endeavored to uphold the vision of paternal honor idealized by African American communities.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

LH: I started college as a mechanical engineering major with the unrealistic goal of becoming a mission payload specialist and astronaut. In my first semester, I took an 800-person American History survey course with the late Leon F Litwack, and it changed my life. I switched my major to history and never looked back. In graduate school, I narrowed my focus to the Civil War era based on interest and a desire to work with the late William E. Gienapp. Great teachers and mentors have provided inspiration at every stage of my career development.

JF: What is your next project?

LH: My next project examines the consequences of Civil War mortality, comparing Southern counties with relatively light losses to those with heavy losses. The South lost a significant percentage of its white male population between the ages of 14 and 55, and local organization of regiments meant that deaths were unevenly spread across the landscape. I am using a combination of quantitative data and qualitative sources to explore the effects of wartime mortality on household formation, marriage patterns, local politics, regional migration, gender roles, and post-war race relations, with a particular focus on widows.

JF: Thanks, Libra!

The Author’s Corner with Michael Turner

Michael J. Turner is the Roy Carroll Distinguished Professor of British History at Appalachian State University, North Carolina. This interview is based on his new book, Stonewall Jackson, Beresford Hope, and the Meaning of the American Civil War in Britain (LSU Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Stonewall Jackson, Beresford Hope, and the Meaning of the American Civil War in Britain?

MT: Several areas of interest came together and I thought it a project worth pursuing, given the time and opportunity. Going back many years, I wrote a research paper as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rochester, New York, which touched on British responses to the American Civil War. I found this a fascinating subject, but I did not develop it further at that time (1992). I started working on other things, though I remained interested in British-American interaction, especially during the nineteenth century, and eventually I began to publish in the field. A series of articles, and a book on the role of America in British radicalism (2014), led directly to Stonewall Jackson, Beresford Hope, and the Meaning of the American Civil War in Britain. So did a visit to Richmond, Virginia, in March 2013. I was walking in Capitol Square and I spotted a statue of Stonewall Jackson. On the base, it mentioned something about being a gift from “English gentlemen,” which made me curious. Nobody in the nearby museum seemed to know the story behind it, so when I got home I looked into it. I soon found that Beresford Hope, with whom I was already familiar as a Conservative MP and High Church activist in Victorian Britain, played a leading role in the commissioning, construction, and delivery of the Jackson statue. I decided to find out why. Meanwhile, in the background, over the past 25 years or so, a significant trend in the relevant historiography has been the internationalization of the Civil War. Scholars have been placing the war in a wider setting, investigating its impact around the world and asking how and why it affected foreign opinion about America. I wanted to contribute to these discussions. Building on a longstanding interest in British-American interaction, intrigued by the connection between Hope and the Jackson statue, and wishing to add to our understanding of the Civil War as more than just an American war, my focus was on British perspectives that might previously have been under-studied or under-estimated. We already know a lot about the chief determinants of British attitudes—like cotton, or slavery, or ideas about democracy, or imperial security—but what about other factors?

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Stonewall Jackson, Beresford Hope, and the Meaning of the American Civil War in Britain?

MT: There was considerable sympathy for the South in Britain and this arose not only from economic interest and political preferences, but also from a sense of social, ethnic, religious, and cultural affinity. Admiration for Southern “heroism,” personified in Stonewall Jackson, was of particular importance, and he was to have a lasting fame in Britain because of the values he was supposed to represent.

JF: Why do we need to read Stonewall Jackson, Beresford Hope, and the Meaning of the American Civil War in Britain?

MT: It is a wide-ranging book. From two points of entry—Beresford Hope’s leadership role in pro-Southern agitation, and Stonewall Jackson’s British reputation—the book opens up to explore the many reasons why people in Britain wished the Confederacy well and continued to sympathize with the South in the postwar decades. Stonewall Jackson, Beresford Hope, and the Meaning of the American Civil War in Britain combines and adds to two approaches: relating the Civil War to its international ramifications, and explaining British responses to the American crises of secession, war, and Reconstruction. The goal is to expand knowledge and understanding of these matters, not least by offering fresh insights gleaned from research into previously neglected sources and historical agents.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

MT: It must have started as a child. I remember my favorite books being historical books, my favorite movies being historical movies, and so on, I think because history is all about real people—why they do things, their ideas and circumstances, what motivates them—and of course the patterns of the present all have their roots in the past. At school, history was the subject I enjoyed most and the one for which I worked hardest. There was one very influential teacher, who had read Modern History at Oxford, and I wanted to do the same. I went up to Oxford in 1984 and stayed for seven years! I had brilliant tutors for the BA, a superb supervisor for my doctorate, and access to wonderful libraries and other resources. Then I came to the States, for the first time, to do the postdoc at Rochester. I count myself truly blessed that it all worked out so well.

JF: What is your next project?

MT: I am currently engaged in a study of problems facing the Church of England in the Victorian age, seen from the perspective of High Church laity.

JF: Thanks, Michael!

The Author’s Corner with John Marks

John Marks is Historian and Public History Administrator for the American Association for State and Local History. This interview is based on his new book, Black Freedom in the Age of Slavery: Race, Status, and Identity in the Urban Americas (University of South Carolina Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Black Freedom in the Age of Slavery?

JM: The idea for this project began developing for me in graduate school. In reading widely about the history of race and slavery in the Atlantic World, I began to recognize patterns in the lived experiences of African-descended people in urban spaces that often went unmentioned. Historians of the United States almost never talked about parallels with Latin American society; Latin Americanists, for their part, often referenced older, or more abstract, examples from US histories when drawing broad comparisons. A deep engagement with current scholarship for both regions, however, revealed parallels I just couldn’t ignore: namely, the opportunity for free people of color living in cities before the end of slavery to carve out spaces of autonomy for themselves, claim a degree of distinction within their communities, and conduct themselves in ways that defied white expectation—and often the law. Recognizing major differences in law, culture, and attitudes towards racial difference across the Americas, I wanted to understand with greater precision the ways African-descended people navigated daily life in these places. As I began researching, I recognized as well that explicitly comparative history in some ways represented an unfulfilled promise of the turn to the “Atlantic World” as a perspective for analyzing the history of the United States and other American societies. Few scholars had conducted the kind of careful social history research in service of a transnational and comparative project I thought was necessary to really understand local dynamics. Once I realized such an approach could make a unique contribution to our understanding of race and slavery, there was no turning back.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Black Freedom in the Age of Slavery?

JM: Throughout the urban Americas before the end of slavery, free people of color relentlessly pursued opportunities to improve their circumstances and provide for their families, staking claims to rights, privileges, and distinctions not typically granted to African-descended people. These efforts represented part of an international struggle for Black freedom, as free Black residents in Charleston, Cartagena, and beyond subtly challenged ideologies of white racial supremacy that linked the Americas together and undermined the foundations of white authority in the Atlantic World.

JF: Why do we need to read Black Freedom in the Age of Slavery?

JM: 2020 has revealed for many Americans, especially white Americans, the degree to which racial injustice and inequality are still pervasive and pernicious features of our society. In order to fully understand the persistence of both individual racial prejudice and systemic racism, we need to understand the history of how race has operated and affected the lives of African-descended people. To fully understand that story, we need to at times look at the history of race and slavery from an international perspective.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, free people of African descent in the United States, Colombia, and throughout the Americas had to confront broadly shared notions of white supremacy among the country’s ruling classes in order to advance efforts to provide for themselves, their loved ones, and their communities. Today, anti-Black racism and a wide range of persistent racial inequalities are pervasive from Canada to Chile and everywhere in between. When demonstrations against systemic racism and police violence erupted this summer, they extended to places like Puerto Rico, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia, in addition to across the United States. These international demonstrations were not just in solidarity with the US, they were protests against the particular, local histories of white supremacist violence and injustice.

Linking the histories of race and slavery in these places, exploring how and when racial dynamics were the same and different, offers new perspective on the histories of the United States, Latin America, and the Atlantic World, and I hope offers some insight into how we should understand efforts to combat white supremacy in the present.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

JM: High school was the first time I really recognized that I had an uncommon interest in (and knack for) reading and writing about the past, but it wasn’t until college that I realized it could be a career. As an undergrad at Lynchburg College (now University of Lynchburg), I had the opportunity to pursue several locally-focused research projects, and I grew to enjoy the archive, the search for material, and the process of putting a puzzle together when you’re not really sure if you have all the pieces. As a New Jersey native researching race and slavery in Virginia, I also became keenly aware of regional differences in present-day racial dynamics, and I wanted to know more about how understandings of race developed over time. Moving forward through graduate school and now a career in public history, the way I think about what it means to be an American historian has certainly changed. But I’m as committed as ever to using research, writing, and engagement with the public to better understand the past and think through how it can help us solve problems in the present.

JF: What is your next project?

JM: I’ve got a couple things kicking around that I hope to be able to say more about soon. In both my scholarship and my day job (for the American Association for State and Local History), I’ve been thinking a lot about anniversaries and how historians can use them as opportunities to expand, challenge, and learn from the public’s understandings of history. 2022 will mark the 200th anniversary of the Denmark Vesey conspiracy in Charleston, and 2026 represents the 250th anniversary of the United States. I know planning is underway already for both commemorations, so I’m interested in using those events to think in new ways about the history of race, slavery, and freedom—whether for books, articles, public history projects, or other endeavors.

JF: Thanks, John!

The Author’s Corner with Kenneth Noe

Kenneth Noe is Draughon Professor of Southern History at Auburn University. This interview is based on his new book, The Howling Storm: Weather, Climate, and the American Civil War (LSU Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write The Howling Storm?

KN: Growing up in the Virginia mountains, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents on our farm. Weather forecasts were vital, as we had to know if it was time to get the animals in the barn before a snow storm, or if we needed to bale newly-mown hay and store it in the loft before rain set in. Once I planted a field of corn only to watch it die in a drought. So I grew up in a household where weather was central. Yet I never really made the connection between weather and the Civil War until years later when I agreed to write a history of the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky. Weather—in this case a devastating late summer droughtsoon became as important a character as Braxton Bragg. Soldiers arrived at the field dehydrated and sick from drinking mud and bacterial puddles, and the fighting itself began over possession of a spring. Working on that book left me attuned to other moments in the war that were shaped by weather, such as the flooding that characterized Fort Henry, Shiloh, and the Peninsula Campaign earlier in 1862. More and more I included information about weather when I taught, and I told my students for years that “someone needs to write a book about Civil War weather.” When no one did, I abruptly decided one morning a decade ago to give it a try myself.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of The Howling Storm?

KN: We will not fully understand the Civil War—on the battlefield or on the home frontuntil we take the war back outside and immerse it in wartime weather and the physical environment. Those weather conditions generally favored a Union cause more industrially and intellectually able to cope with it while undermining Confederate agriculture and arms.

JF: Why do we need to read The Howling Storm?

KN: I’ve read about the Civil War since I was a boy, and I’ve studied it professionally for thirty-five years. I thought I knew what I was talking about. Yet researching and writing this book has forever altered how I understand the war. I never knew that it took place in an unusual weather environment, for one thing, shaped by both the El Niño-Southern Oscillation and the North Atlantic Oscillation. Heavy late winter rains and summer droughts in the Confederacy in 1862 and 1863, as well as in Virginia in 1864, created serious food shortages that forced the government in Richmond to prioritize feeding soldiers or civilians. Civil War historians talk all the time about the internal issues that conceivably doomed the Confederacy without understanding that the foundation of all those divisive policies such as impressment and the tax-in-kind are to be found in bad weather and stunted crops. At the same time, northern agriculture faced problems after 1862 due to early frosts in 1863 and drought that year as well as in 1864. Good or bad weather played major roles in the outcomes of battles and campaigns, more than I ever grasped. Once I added weather to the equation, I began to alter my opinions of the leaders too. Abraham Lincoln was a magisterial president in so many ways, but he also could be the prototype of the worst kind of snarky armchair general, unable or unwilling to grasp what it took to move 100,000 men through muddy red clay. And I also marveled at the suffering that common soldiers endured. We think about them dying in battle or in hospitals, but not regularly alongside roads due to heat exhaustion, drowning in floods, freezing to death on picket, or being struck by lightning. I hope that taking the war back outside into the environment, away from our air conditioners and the tired clichés we grew up with, will have the same effect on readers.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

KN: My grandfather was a great storyteller, and history was always my favorite class in school, right through college. And growing up in Virginia, it was impossible to ignore the Civil War. When I was five, for example, we all went to the Manassas battlefield and my father illegally hoisted me on top of the Stonewall Jackson statue. To be honest, though, I got pretty tired of the war. I gravitated toward European history in college, and my MA thesis actually is about the Irish Rebellion of 1916. But during the year after I graduated, as I tried to find a job and ended up cutting timber on the farm, I started thinking about the history of our land, and of my home town. Then I ran across a paperback copy of Bruce Catton’s This Hallowed Ground, and there I was, intellectually back in Southwest Virginia in the nineteenth century. Eventually that led me back to grad school.

JF: What is your next project?

KN: In the short term, surviving a year of Zoom teaching. After that? Ten years of working on The Howling Storm—which turned into quite a thick book—and I should be done with Civil War weather. Yet I keep musing about issues that I had to leave out due to length, such as the wartime experience in coastal forts, where weather often was the main foe. I’m also an Appalachian scholar, and I also have an unfinished, long-term project on the identity of Appalachian Civil War bushwhackers that a few folks really want to me to finish finally once I can get back to Washington.

JF: Thanks, Kenneth!

The Author’s Corner with Carla Pestana

Carla Gardina Pestana is Professor of History, Department Chair, and Joyce Appleby Endowed Chair of America in the World at the University of California, Los Angeles. This interview is based on her new book, The World of Plymouth Plantation (Belknap Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write The World of Plymouth Plantation?

CP: The simple answer, and one I allude to in the book’s acknowledgements, is that I participated in an NEH funded workshop at the living history museum Plimoth Plantation some years ago. During that multi-day meeting, I was struck by how Plymouth appears isolated from the wider world. Immediate interactions, especially those with the area’s original residents, received the focus of attention in conversations there and, I subsequently realized, in the literature around Plymouth as well. I felt inspired to think systematically about what connected Plymouth to a world beyond the neighboring Wampanoag peoples and the immediate location.

On another level, this project represents a return to my roots. My original research centered on New England; and though I have kept it in my sights in a number of more broadly framed projects, this is the first time I have returned to consider the region on its own. This return had not occurred to me, until a number of friends pointed it out.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of The World of Plymouth Plantation?

CP: Plymouth Plantation was connected from its inception to other places, and those connections shaped its early history in ways both basic and profound. (That is one!)

JF: Why do we need to read The World of Plymouth Plantation?

CP: I realize this is my chance to make my own case, but I am not sure I would use the word “need”! (Obviously, I could be better at self-promotion.)

The World of Plymouth Plantation offers a readable account of everyday life as well as of what we might call their world view. It is organized around some basic categories that have shaped Atlantic history, specifically things, ideas, and people that circulated into and through the outpost. It uses those categories to shape 18 short chapters that each begin with a vignette (although not the usual ones) and consider an element from one of the three categories. So, it’s organized in an interesting (if subtle) way. It also reflects knowledge gained from many years of teaching and researching, without being didactic about it. My intended readers are not only scholars and students but also the wider public, so it is relatively short, not to mention nicely illustrated and written in an accessible style.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

CP: I stumbled into the study of history in that I went to graduate school largely on the recommendation of my undergraduate faculty and without a clear idea of what I would find there. As an undergraduate, I had felt especially drawn to early American history so I continued in that vein, making me technically an American historian since the colonial period is treated as the first (and often least significant) chapter of US history. I stumbled across the Quaker executions in Massachusetts Bay Colony in the first months of my graduate career and quickly became obsessed with explaining them. I wanted, on the most basic level, to understand how Perry Miller’s The New England Mind: From Colony to Province and Christopher Hill’s The World Turned Upside Down could both be legitimate representations of an era (and some closely connected people during it) when their subject matters and findings seemed so vastly at odds. In a way, my dissertation and first book were an attempt to answer that question.

Since that time, I have wandered out into Atlantic, Caribbean, and even British topics, but I have always taught early American history. I continue to consider myself a historian of early America, even though now I am interested in that and more.

JF: What is your next project?

CP: Sadly, I am uncertain. Like most historians, I am missing the access to archives and libraries brought on by the pandemic. I want to get back into the Jamaican archives to answer some questions left hanging from a previous book. I want to think more deeply about maritime topics, and I would have been in the National Records Office in Kew looking at High Court of Admiralty records this summer had that been possible. I may put together an edited collection of articles by other scholars on the early modern global Caribbean, since I have been facilitating conversations around that topic for some time.

JF: Thanks, Carla!

The Author’s Corner with Hannah-Rose Murray

Hannah-Rose Murray is Early Career Leverhulme Research Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. She is also the creator of a virtual Black Abolitionist tour of London, highlighting six important sites where African American activists made an impact on the UK landscape. This interview is based on her new book, Advocates of Freedom: African American Transatlantic Abolitionism in the British Isles (Cambridge University Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Advocates for Freedom?

HM: The book developed from my PhD project, which focused on Black abolitionism in the British Isles during the nineteenth century. When I first started my research, I collated thousands of newspaper articles about Frederick Douglass’ visit to Britain and Ireland between 1845-1847, and after reading the pioneering works of Richard Blackett and Audrey Fisch realized that there was a wealth of material and sources to search through and uncover the larger story behind this transatlantic movement. I was fascinated to learn why Douglass was so famous and I developed a framework, adaptive resistance, which explores the reason why some activists were more successful than others: broadly, it’s a triad that rests on performance, antislavery networks and exploitation of print culture. For example, one of the reasons why Douglass was so successful in 1845 was due to his oratorical skill, his connections to William Lloyd Garrison’s antislavery movement and friends across Britain and Ireland, who in turn befriended newspaper editors and published pamphlets and materials to maximise support for Douglass and the abolitionist cause. Others, like Moses Roper, were maligned in the press by newspaper correspondents and by some abolitionists; he often had to make his own way around Britain without such concrete networks of support. Through excavating British newspaper articles, I could analyze their performances, their testimony and how they were received by the press and public across the nineteenth century, and how certain events–like the publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the American Civil War impacted their missions. Additionally, I created a mapping project that attempts to record as many African American speaking locations as possible. So far, I’ve mapped 4,700 sites in 1,550 locations across Britain and Ireland. As well as being a handy visualization tool for my research, it also presents numerous analytical patterns: why certain activists spoke in some locations rather than others and even how some followed early railway routes for ease of transportation. This filtered into the book too.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Advocates for Freedom?

HM: I argue that by sharing their oratorical, visual, and literary testimony to transatlantic audiences, African American activists galvanised the antislavery movement and highlighted not only their death-defying escapes from bondage but also their desire to speak out against slavery and white supremacy on foreign soil. Using a framework I term adaptive resistance, I uncover the reasons why some activists were more successful than others, why they visited certain locations, how they adapted to the political and social climate, and what impact their activism had on British society.

JF: Why do we need to read Advocates for Freedom?

HM: The politicized and radical journeys undertaken by African Americans to the British Isles are crucial to understanding their testimony and future careers, but also the antislavery movement and the Black Atlantic as a whole. For the first time, my book reveals new testimony and archival discoveries surrounding the stories of Moses Roper, Frederick Douglass and Josiah Henson (to name a few) and uses digital mapping to analyze their antislavery missions as well as a theoretical framework to determine why some activists were more successful than others. In this detailed study, I examine how in Britain and Ireland, thousands of slave narratives and abolitionist pamphlets were sold, petitions were signed, hundreds of pounds were raised for societies or given directly to help purchase individuals or their family members from slavery. Thousands more attended meetings at chapels, town halls, school rooms and lecturing halls, who often queued for hours beforehand and millions of words were written in response to Black activists and their stories of slavery. These activists challenged misconceptions of slavery, advanced the cause of abolition and mobilized public opinion. Through their interventions with the press, correspondents published Black abolitionist letters, speeches and commentaries, and their message was spread often beyond their immediate reach or where they had lectured. Their tireless activism often created and sustained antislavery momentum across the transatlantic, and their international missions inspired further action as well as apoplectic rage in the United States.

My work is also timely: as the Black Lives Matter protests continue to take place around the world, it’s important to recognize that the activists I discuss were declaring that their Black lives mattered nearly two centuries ago. It’s well documented that the movement has strong historical roots, but my chapter on Ida B. Wells’ lynching campaign in Britain in 1893 and 1894 is particularly prescient when we consider the modern lynchings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The book highlights not only the trajectory between activists in the c19th and today, but also how far we still have to go to accomplish their anti-racist missions.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

HM: I have always loved learning about U.S. history since I was a teenager and was very lucky to visit America a few times when I was studying in secondary school. I started working on Frederick Douglass’ experiences in Britain ten years ago, achieved my PhD in 2018 and haven’t looked back since! My work centres around the rediscovery and amplification of African American testimony–including from Frederick Douglass–to ensure that their lives, histories and memories are no longer invisibilized. Their testimony can also shine a new light on their courageous and inspiring activism on both sides of the Atlantic and remind us that antislavery agitation had a fundamental transatlantic element. Activists like Douglass believed that their missions abroad would have very real consequences for enslavers, proslavery defenders, and racists back home.

JF: What is your next project?

HM: I envision Advocates of Freedom as part of a trilogy: this current work is quite broad and extends from the late 1830s to the early 1890s, so the project I’m working on now is a focused study between 1840-1870. I’m studying the ways in which African Americans used visual and performative testimony in the British Isles to convince the transatlantic public about slavery. For example, Moses Roper exhibited whips, chains and manacles on the Victorian stage and even demonstrated how they worked to his audiences. Henry ‘Box’ Brown, the infamous activist, lecturer and entertainer who escaped slavery by posting himself in a box from Richmond to Philadelphia, starred in a play based on his own life in Kent, England. Other activists like James C. Thompson wrote his own poetry and performed it to his audiences and exhibited paintings of his life in slavery. It’s fascinating to consider how activists used growing technological and visual mediums to inform audiences and entice them to their lectures.

The third book in this ‘trilogy’ (if it does get that far!) will focus on African American postbellum activism in the British Isles. Activists continued to travel to Britain and Ireland and followed in the footsteps of their forebears to raise awareness and educate transatlantic audiences on global racism. Additionally, they campaigned around the fact that, contrary to popular belief, U.S. chattel slavery had never actually died. Instead, its foul spirit had mutated and evolved into practices such as lynching and the convict lease system, which preserved the legacies of centuries of oppression. While antebellum slave narratives and speeches distinctly served the purpose of abolition, post-war testimony–particularly in oratorical form–was specifically shaped around abolition’s broken promises. They continued to denounce white supremacy, challenge Lost Cause narratives and white domestic terrorism up to the early twentieth century.

JF: Thanks, Hannah-Rose!

The Author’s Corner with Francis Bremer

One small candleFrank Bremer is Professor Emeritus of history at Millersville University. This interview is based on his new book, One Small Candle: The Plymouth Puritans and the Beginning of English New England (Oxford University Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write One Small Candle?

FB: As we approached the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower and the settlement of the Pilgrim colony, I realized that for a long time scholars had neglected the religious dimension of the story. Anticipated new studies were going to examine the impact of the settlement on the lives and cultures of the indigenous people, and the contributions the settlers made to the political structure of the region. What was most important to the people themselves, their faith, was in danger of being ignored.

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of One Small Candle?

FB: The congregation of believers commonly referred to as the Pilgrims was formed and shaped by English lay men and women of faith who moved first to the Netherlands and then to New England in order to continue their search for a further reformation. The example and advice they provided to the early settlers of Massachusetts determined the character of the new England Way of puritan church practice.

JF: Why do we need to read One Small Candle?

FB: Despite the best efforts of many scholars the popular perception of puritans is that they were steeple-hatted killjoys with dreadful fashion-sense who persecuted dissenters, and executed witches. These assertions are all exaggerated to various extents, but the fact is that most attention to the puritans (including the “Pilgrims”) focuses solely on the negative aspects of their beliefs and practice. In terms of legacy they are mistakenly portrayed as the source of modern evangelical conservative politics. While acknowledging the warts, I wanted to explore some elements of the story that are worth our consideration. Their belief in lay empowerment contributed to forms of participatory government in congregations, towns, and other political entities. Their belief in the importance of reading scripture led them to require all–men and women, servants and slaves–to be taught to read. Their openness to “further light” made them less dogmatic than most of their religious contemporaries, though not as open to diversity as we are. Their commitment to the welfare of the larger community as opposed to individual self-advancement provided a model social gospel, though one limited to their own small society.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

FB: I have been interested in stories of the past for as long as I can remember. Short summer vacations in New England when I was a child focused my interest on that region. When I developed a taste for theology as an undergraduate at Fordham University, that, combined with my New England interest, made puritanism an attractive field of study. While I have taught courses on numerous aspects of American History, I consider myself a religious historian of the early modern Atlantic world. I have been studying, restudying, lecturing and writing on puritanism in the Atlantic world for over fifty years. Most of my teaching was directed at undergraduates and in my books I have tried to explain complex notions in a way accessible to ordinary readers, because I believe that knowing about and thinking about the past helps us to be better citizens.

JF: What is your next project?

FB: In recent years I have found myself reconsidering some of the assumptions about early New England and puritanism that I had adopted from the work of earlier scholars and promulgated myself. The results have been reflected in some of my recent works. In keeping with this revisiting of familiar views, I am reconsidering the role of women in the development of puritanism. While the “virtuous wives” written about by Laurel Ulrich and the radicalism of figures such as Anne Hutchinson and Mary Dyer are part of the story, I am more interested in the women who formed congregations by attesting to covenants, who helped other believers understand the state of their own souls by sharing their professions of faith, who prophesied in formal and informal church settings, who wrote religious treatises, who voted in congregational meetings, and–in England–actually preached publicly.

JF: Thanks, Frank!

The Author’s Corner with Eric Smith

Oliver HartEric Smith is Senior Pastor of Sharon Baptist Church in Savannah, Tennessee and Adjunct Professor of Historical Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. This interview is based on his new book, Oliver Hart and the Rise of Baptist America (Oxford University Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Oliver Hart?

ES: I wrote Oliver Hart and the Rise of Baptist America mostly because I wanted to tell the story of Oliver Hart, arguably the most important evangelical leader of the pre-Revolutionary South, whose thirty-year ministry in Charleston transformed Baptist life in the region. I also wanted to tell the understudied story of American Baptist transformation across the long eighteenth century; Hart provides a particularly useful window into that narrative. 

JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Oliver Hart?

ES: My book argues that Oliver Hart played a pivotal role in the rise of Baptist America in the second half of the eighteenth century by practicing a singular and understated style of religious leadership. Through his earnest piety, relational skills, and ability to integrate Baptist precisionism with the evangelical revivalism of the Great Awakening, Hart became Southern Baptists’ most important pioneer and a key contributor to Baptist ascendancy in America. 

JF: Why do we need to read Oliver Hart?

ES: My book is the only biography of Oliver Hart, Southern Baptists’ most important pioneer and one of the most important evangelical leaders of the eighteenth century. If you read my book, you will also discover how American Baptists began the eighteenth century a small, scattered, disorganized sect, but ended it a large, rapidly growing, increasingly sophisticated, and relatively unified denomination in the young republic.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American Historian?

ES: I have always been fascinated by the past! As a child in West Tennessee, I grew up enchanted by American history–exploring Shiloh National Military Park, listening to stories about Davy Crockett, watching the Ken Burns Baseball documentary on PBS with my dad, reading presidential biographies–and I’ve just never gotten over it. I’ve also always loved to write. So as a historian, I get to pursue the sheer joy of learning for myself, and then try to share what I’ve learned by telling the very best story I can to others. I’d love to produce for readers the kinds of informative and enjoyable stories about the past that I’ve benefited from through the years. My work so far has focused on Baptists, an important but relatively understudied group in American religious history. Since this is my own tradition, I have a personal interest in understanding how the Baptists have lived, worshipped, and participated in the larger American story (for good and for bad) through the centuries. Along the way, maybe I can shed some light on the Baptists for others, too. 

JF: What is your next project?

ES: I have completed a biography of the eccentric but highly influential Baptist John Leland, which is currently under consideration with a publisher, and I have begun work on a critical biography of the nineteenth-century Southern Baptist leader John A. Broadus.

JF: Thanks, Eric!

The Author’s Corner with Baird Tipson

Inward BaptismBaird Tipson is Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies at Gettysburg College. This interview is based on his new book, Inward Baptism: The Theological Origins of Evangelicalism (Oxford University Press, 2020).

JF: What led you to write Inward Baptism?

BT: The two and a half centuries following the Reformation (c. 1500-1750) saw critical changes in how people understood Protestant Christianity. For many, a religion that had once occurred largely invisible sacraments presided over by an ordained clergy became located primarily in the individual conscience and–for many–in perceptible experiences of the inward activity of the Holy Spirit.

 JF: In two sentences, what is the argument of Inward Baptism?

BT: Inward Baptism argues that accepting Luther’s fundamental insights would eventually shift the balance from encountering the divine in clerically-controlled church services to encountering the divine in personal, largely interior, experience. Where Luther urged Christians to draw assurance of their being in God’s good graces from their having been baptized as infants, Wesley insisted they must–as adults–perceive the Holy Spirit at work in their hearts.

JF: Why do we need to read Inward Baptism?

BT: I hope I can convince conscientious readers of two things (1) the enormous differences between a sacramentally-oriented Christianity and one based primarily on knowing Jesus as a Christian’s personal savior, and (2) the possibility that evangelical Christianity is not some recent aberration but a virtually inevitable result of Protestantism’s commitment to justification by faith.

JF: Tell us a little bit about the source material you worked with in the writing and researching of Inward Baptism.

BT: Since this is a work of historical theology, I worked chiefly in printed sources, primarily the writings of individual theologians. (I did use a few manuscript sources as well). Since for the most part I was working beyond my own areas of specialization, I tested my interpretations against a raft of secondary sources. In the first three chapters, the printed sources were rarely in English, so I compared my own translations with those of other scholars wherever possible. Fortunately, much of my source material is available digitally, particularly in Early English Books Online and on the website of the Post-Reformation digital library.

JF: What is your next project?

BT: I am presently working on differing understandings within the Anglican tradition of The Book of Common Prayer. Recent scholarship has demonstrated to my satisfaction that Thomas Cranmer’s two prayer books (1549 and 1552) were transitional products that reflected his evolving theological commitments; had he lived and circumstances permitted, he would undoubtedly have made further modifications. But the Anglican tradition has come to understand The Book of Common Prayer as reflecting something called “Anglicanism,” in the process gliding over areas where Cranmer’s language was purposely imprecise. I am particularly interested at the moment in how participation in the sacraments does or does not “assure” the worshipper of God’s favor

JF: Thanks, Baird!