People Like Us

Earlier this year, President Trump complained about the media’s failure to pay due attention to Islamist terrorist attacks, and the administration offered a specific list of such events. In some cases, his complaint was unfair, but the list did include many overseas attacks known only to experts, and largely ignored by media. In turn, critics [Read More…]

Of Slavs, Slaves, Vikings, and Genetics

I recently had a DNA test to help trace my ancestry, and the result surprised me. The larger story might shed light on one of the grimmest and most forgotten horrors of European history, an era of brutal slave trading. By way of background, my known genealogy is very straightforward indeed. It shows close to [Read More…]

Spreading the Faith: Daniel Syndrome

Another in a series of posts about the many and various ways in which religions spread – often by people who originally had no intention whatever of becoming missionaries, or indeed of leaving their homes. Sometimes, people really do set out to spread their religion to new parts of the world, and they enjoy great [Read More…]

Branching Paths and Alternate Histories

I have long valued Rick Perlstein as an excellent scholar of recent American history, chiefly working on the 1960s and 1970s. Based on his recent writings, I also see that he must be a superlative teacher. Please bear those comments in mind when I express some disagreement with him on the theme of counter-factual history, [Read More…]

Adventures in Parenting as a Historian: The American Girl Books

On seeing history through the eyes of a seven year old, as she reads American Girl books for the first time. [Read more…]

Highlights from the 2016 Meeting of the Conference on Faith and History

Race, gender, identity… and Donald Trump. Revisiting the 2016 meeting of the Conference on Faith and History – the first to be displaced by a presidential campaign rally! [Read more…]

Mormons, Race, and Slavery

In the middle of 1870, Scipio Africanus Kenner feared losing the girl he loved. For some time, he had been courting Isabel Park with her family’s encouragement. Then, suddenly, Park’s mother cooled on the match and asked Kenner never to visit the home again. Park, however, did not stop seeing Kenner. According to Kenner, Agnes [Read More…]

Evangelical Anti-abolitionists

Even in slaveholding states, many white Americans were uneasy about the morality of black slavery in the decades that preceded the Civil War. However, there were two things such Americans disliked far more than slavery: black people and abolitionists. According to Luke Harlow’s recently published Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, those double [Read More…]

How Violent Was American Slavery? Colonial Slave Codes

Last week I wrote about the challenges colonial American missionaries faced when trying to evangelize slaves without fundamentally challenging the institution of slavery. Starting in the eighteenth century, growing numbers of Christians began to express concerns about the immorality of slavery, at least slavery as practiced in the Americas. But when they turned to Scripture, [Read More…]

Evangelizing Slaves and Colonial Christianity

I recently read Travis Glasson’s excellent book Mastering Christianity: Missionary Anglicanism and Slavery in the Atlantic World (Oxford, 2012). This book details the complex relationship between enslaved people, slave masters, and the missionaries of the Anglican Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG), which began a major outreach effort to the North American colonies in the [Read More…]