Should You Apply to Graduate School?

Late spring is a good time for potential applicants to start thinking about applying to graduate school. Most application deadlines come between about November 15 and January 15, for admission the following fall. Here’s my post from the Anxious Bench archives about choosing the best programs for you – and whether you should apply to [Read More…]

Volcanic Faith

I have been discussing the effects of global changes in weather and climate on the history of religions. Sometimes, those developments can be related to long-term climatic developments, such as the Little Ice Age, but in other instances, we see the impact of transient catastrophes. A growing number of books have traced the impact of [Read More…]

American Protestantism and Madness

Nearly twenty years ago, I visited a psychiatric unit near the city of Cebu in the Philippines. It consisted of two small sex-segregated wings, each holding perhaps two dozen patients. For my young adult eyes, it was a house of horrors. I had seen slums. I had seen young children scavenging at a filthy dump. [Read More…]

The Christian History of “Pagan” Easter

I bought Easter candy for my students. It was a mistake. Although the students made a valiant effort to eat as much as possible, they left a few Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (a particular weakness of mine) in the candy basket. Needless to say, they didn’t last long. Reese’s eggs are just one of many [Read More…]

American Colonial History: Clashing Cultures and Faiths

My new Yale University Press book American Colonial History: Clashing Cultures and Faiths is ‘in stock’ this week at Amazon, and officially releases on April 12. My aim in this book is to tell a readable story of early America, including the meetings and conflicts of Africans, Europeans, and Native Americans. It is based on extensive [Read More…]

1320: Climate Change and the Demons Within

Climate change, weather, and agricultural cycles all played their part in religious history. On occasion, disasters drove paranoia and persecution – see my columns on the years around 1680. My discussion of the c.1740 era suggested how a deep crisis might create an audience open to revivalism. No less fundamentally, catastrophe could decide something as [Read More…]

1741: A Climate of Revival

In my last post, I described the extreme climatic conditions that formed the background of the Great Awakening as it developed between 1739 and 1742. To give an idea of this period as it affected one area of New England, this is an extract from a well known source, namely Joshua Coffin, A Sketch Of [Read More…]

Death and Faith in the Civil War

In February of 1864, a Confederate officer named Franklin Gaillard received word of his father’s death. Gaillard was numb to death, having fought at Gettysburg the previous July. “It was the most shocking battle I have ever witnessed,” he wrote after his side’s bloody defeat. “There were familiar forms and faces with parts of their [Read More…]

Amish Innovation

In 2004 the Kempf family farm in northeast Ohio was devastated by blight. Half of their crops, which included tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and cantaloupes, were wiped out. There was one productive area on the farm though: a new section that yielded some beautiful cantaloupes. The family’s 16-year-old son John wondered why. He hypothesized that the [Read More…]

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

For professors, writing letters of recommendation is a constant part of the job. Wise undergraduate and graduate students should make it as easy as possible for your professors to write them. Although few professors will write overtly negative letters, faint praise can just as easily condemn an applicant, especially when they are applying for highly [Read More…]