Here’s my latest edition of New and Notable Books. As a reminder, these suggestions focus on recent books in history, especially American history and religious/church history. These books certainly may interest fellow historians, but I also suggest ones that are accessible and (relatively) affordable to students and general readers.
Jehu J. Hanciles, Migration and the Making of Global Christianity (Eerdmans, foreword by my Baylor colleague Philip Jenkins). “Human migration has long been identified as a driving force of historical change. Building on this understanding, Jehu Hanciles surveys the history of Christianity’s global expansion from its origins through 1500 CE to show how migration—more than official missionary activity or imperial designs—played a vital role in making Christianity the world’s largest religion.”
Gary Scott Smith, Duty and Destiny: The Life and Faith of Winston Churchill (Eerdmans Library of Religious Biography). Winston Churchill was “far from transparent about his religious beliefs and never regularly attended church services as an adult, even considering himself ‘not a pillar of the church but a buttress,’ in the sense that he supported it ‘from the outside.’ But Gary Scott Smith assembles pieces of Churchill’s life and words to convey the profound sense of duty and destiny, partly inspired by his religious convictions, that undergirded his outlook.”
Crawford Gribben, Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America: Christian Reconstruction in the Pacific Northwest (Oxford). If someone other than Crawford Gribben wrote this, I would probably roll my eyes and say “another hit piece on evangelicals!” But I am confident that Gribben, a professor at Queen’s University Belfast and great scholar of both Puritanism and evangelicalism, will approach this topic with great empathy and insight.
Kirsten Fischer, American Freethinker: Elihu Palmer and the Struggle for Religious Freedom in the New Nation (University of Pennsylvania Press). “Fischer reveals that Palmer engaged in person and in print with an array of freethinkers—some famous, others now obscure. The flourishing of diverse religious opinion struck some of his contemporaries as foundational to a healthy democracy while others believed that only a strong Christian faith could support democratic self-governance. This first comprehensive biography of Palmer draws on extensive archival research to tell the life story of a freethinker who was at the heart of the new nation’s protracted contest over religious freedom and free speech—a debate that continues to resonate today.”
Daniel R. Bare, Black Fundamentalists: Conservative Christianity and Racial Identity in the Segregation Era (New York University Press). In my endorsement of this book, I said “Daniel R. Bare’s splendid book . . . will become one of the essential works on American fundamentalism, carrying major implications for the troubles over race and politics confronting many American churches today.”
[The book links provided here are part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.]