The King of Beaver Island

Most people with only a passing acquaintance with the history of Mormonism presume that there was a simple transition to Brigham Young’s leadership after the June 1844 murder of Joseph Smith, Jr. In truth, Smith’s death precipitated several competing claims to leadership. A new “Kindle Single” authored by John J. Miller in The Polygamist King [Read More…]

1647: The Year Christians Cancelled Christmas

Well, I am overstating a bit. No one can really cancel Christmas, as the Grinch so famously discovered. But the public celebration of Christmas can be cancelled, which is what happened in England during the seventeenth-century Civil War. Here’s the story in brief–as related by Diane Purkiss in The English Civil War: While Charles I [Read More…]

Top Five Books on Benjamin Franklin

What are the best books on the ever-fascinating founder Benjamin Franklin? As I have been writing a religious biography of Franklin for Yale University Press, I have been getting to know the vast literature on Franklin. Here are my suggestions for where to start. 1) The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. A no-brainer, as this eminently readable [Read More…]

After the Crisis

I have sketched the political and social meltdown that Palestine suffered in the terrible year of 4 BC. Wars and insurrections were by no means unusual anywhere in the ancient world, and Palestine was no exception. But this particular crisis was unusual in its severity, and several features make it worthy of special notice, especially [Read More…]

The Year Jesus Was Born

Scholars differ on the exact birthdate of Jesus of Nazareth, though a fair consensus holds that it was not in the year 1. Many favor a date in or around 4BC, and for the sake of argument, let us take that as accurate. If so, the birth occurred during or near a truly dreadful time [Read More…]

Muslims, the New Mormons

In 1890, the U.S. Supreme Court — in upheld laws intended to disenfranchise Mormon polygamists. The 1882 Edmunds Anti-Polygamy Act required voters to swear that they were not polygamists, and the Idaho Territory had passed a statute requiring voters to attest that they were not Mormons. In Idaho, church member Samuel Davis was convicted of [Read More…]

Raising Victorian Children in China

If you can’t tell already by my many posts (here, here, and here), I’ve been fascinated by Jane Smith’s 1984 book about women missionaries in turn-of-the-century China. In this final post, I want to delve into Smith’s description of childrearing by missionary mothers. According to archival records, this was one of the most anxious and [Read More…]

Ben Franklin, Anti-Catholicism, and the Founding of the University of Pennsylvania

Historians have generally cast the founding of the University of Pennsylvania (or the College of Philadelphia) in 1755 as a step toward secular education in America. While the early college met in the great evangelist George Whitefield’s preaching building, Ben Franklin was the brains behind the school. As I noted in an an earlier post, [Read More…]

Four Good Questions

Through the years, I have often taught courses on Christian history, covering various periods. Whenever I do that, I usually approach the course with a simple four-point formula that proves useful to focus students on the issues that Christians debate in particular eras – although the key issues and conflicts will differ between periods. Depending [Read More…]

Woodrow Wilson, Race, and the Depravity of Human Nature

Today’s guest post comes from Dr. Barry Hankins, professor of history at Baylor University. His religious biography Woodrow Wilson: Ruling Elder, Spiritual President will be published by Oxford University Press in June. Students at Princeton have joined students at Mizzou in clamoring to remove their president. The difference is that the president the Princeton students want [Read More…]


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