New and Notable Books – Summer 2019

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This is the inaugural post of a series of occasional lists I plan to compile, to highlight new or forthcoming books in American religious history or the history of colonial/Revolutionary America.

  • Mary V. Thompson, The Only Unavoidable Subject of Regret”: George Washington, Slavery, and the Enslaved Community at Mount Vernon. Thompson is the author of perhaps the best book on Washington’s religion, and here she follows up with a treatment of Washington and slavery. From the University of Virginia Press: “George Washington’s life has been scrutinized by historians over the past three centuries, but the day-to-day lives of Mount Vernon’s enslaved workers, who left few written records but made up 90 percent of the estate’s population, have been largely left out of the story. In ‘The Only Unavoidable Subject of Regret,’ Mary Thompson offers the first comprehensive account of those who served in bondage at Mount Vernon. Drawing on years of research in a wide range of sources, Thompson brings to life the lives of Washington’s slaves while illuminating the radical change in his views on slavery and race wrought by the American Revolution.”

 

  • Sara Georgini, Household Gods: The Religious Lives of the Adams FamilyFrom Oxford University Press: “Drawing from their rich archive, Sara Georgini, series editor for The Papers of John Adams, demonstrates how pivotal Christianity—as the different generations understood it—was in shaping the family’s decisions, great and small. Spanning three centuries of faith from Puritan New England to the Jazz Age, Household Gods tells a new story of American religion, as the Adams family lived it.”

 

  • Richard M. Gamble, A Fiery Gospel: The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Road to Righteous War. Gamble is a longtime friend of mine, a terrific historian, and professor at Hillsdale College. From Cornell Press: “Since its composition in Washington’s Willard Hotel in 1861, Julia Ward Howe’s ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic’ has been used to make America and its wars sacred. Few Americans reflect on its violent and redemptive imagery, drawn freely from prophetic passages of the Old and New Testaments, and fewer still think about the implications of that apocalyptic language for how Americans interpret who they are and what they owe the world. In A Fiery Gospel, Richard M. Gamble describes how this camp-meeting tune, paired with Howe’s evocative lyrics, became one of the most effective instruments of religious nationalism.”

 

 

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