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Chapter Ten. Religion in the Pre-Civil War South

Randy J. Sparks

Subject History, Religion

Place United States of America » American South

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405121309.2004.00012.x


I n 1987 John B. Boles announced the discovery of southern religious history, and the outpouring of scholarship over the past decade indicates that the field has reached a remarkable stage of maturity ( Boles 1987 ). This essay will explore the most significant works published on the history of southern religion, focusing on those monographs that have appeared during the last decade or since the cutoff date for the titles in Boles's article. He observed that the field of southern religious history had come into existence only in the 1960s; before that time, historians of religion had focused their attention on New England Puritans, and only lay historians interested in the histories of their own churches and denominations had paid much attention to religion in the South. Historians of southern religion might be excused, then, for making the South their only field of labor. In general, southern historians work within their own historiographical confines and rarely venture out to place their work in a larger frame of reference. To some extent, the entire field of southern history is built upon the idea of southern exceptionalism: the idea that there is a distinctive region called the South with a distinctive history worthy of examination on its own terms. It has become increasingly clear over the past decade that the history of southern religion refuses to remain within these boundaries. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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