In the spirit of the lists posted by historians Sean Lucas and Michael Haykin, I offer my own humble little list of my favorite history biographies.
1. George Marsden, Jonathan Edwards–If you haven’t read this, you are missing out on a masterpiece of readable, richly textured history. Marsden sets Edwards’s context as well as one can. He brings you into the world of Edwards, even as he brings the character and theology of Edwards to life. A masterpiece, and my favorite book, period (excepting, of course, the Good one). Works on both the popular and academic levels, which is a feat in its own right.
2. D. G. Hart, Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America–Again, a great historical work. This is a more tightly focused argument than you will find in some biographies, as it is clearly academic history, but there is rich material for all students of historical theology to discover here. Though Hart sympathizes with much of Machen’s theology, he writes in a remarkably balanced, non-hagiographic manner. There are points to quibble with here and there, but this is an excellent critical biography of a great man.
3. Rudolph Nelson, The Making and Unmaking of an Evangelical Mind–This is a sensational biography of a fascinating and tragic evangelical figure, E. J. Carnell. Nelson is a former evangelical who still manages to approach his subject with fairness, though his work is decidedly slanted toward psychology. I couldn’t agree with significant parts of his analysis of Carnell, but I found his biography engrossing and filled with rich detail from the life and thought of this neo-evangelical. If you are interested in the neo-evangelicals, as I very much am, I would encourage you to buy this book and read it. I could not put it down.
More of this tomorrow. What are some of your favorites?