Lewis, “City of Refuge”

In December, Princeton University Press will release City of Refuge: Separatists and Utopian Town Planning by Michael J. Lewis (Williams College). The publisher’s description follows:

city-of-refugeThe vision of Utopia obsessed the nineteenth-century mind, shaping art, literature, and especially town planning. In City of Refuge, Michael Lewis takes readers across centuries and continents to show how Utopian town planning produced a distinctive type of settlement characterized by its square plan, collective ownership of properties, and communal dormitories. Some of these settlements were sanctuaries from religious persecution, like those of the German Rappites, French Huguenots, and American Shakers, while others were sanctuaries from the Industrial Revolution, like those imagined by Charles Fourier, Robert Owen, and other Utopian visionaries.

Because of their differences in ideology and theology, these settlements have traditionally been viewed separately, but Lewis shows how they are part of a continuous intellectual tradition that stretches from the early Protestant Reformation into modern times. Through close readings of architectural plans and archival documents, many previously unpublished, he shows the network of connections between these seemingly disparate Utopian settlements—including even such well-known town plans as those of New Haven and Philadelphia.

The most remarkable aspect of the city of refuge is the inventive way it fused its eclectic sources, ranging from the encampments of the ancient Israelites as described in the Bible to the detailed social program of Thomas More’s Utopia to modern thought about education, science, and technology. Delving into the historical evolution and antecedents of Utopian towns and cities, City of Refuge alters notions of what a Utopian community can and should be.

McDougall, “The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy”

In November, Yale University Press will release The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America’s Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest by Walter A. McDougall (University of Pennsylvania). The publisher’s description follows:

The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy.jpgA fierce critique of civil religion as the taproot of America’s bid for global hegemony

Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Walter A. McDougall argues powerfully that a pervasive but radically changing faith that “God is on our side” has inspired U.S. foreign policy ever since 1776. The first comprehensive study of the role played by civil religion in U.S. foreign relations over the entire course of the country’s history, McDougall’s book explores the deeply infused religious rhetoric that has sustained and driven an otherwise secular republic through peace, war, and global interventions for more than two hundred years. From the Founding Fathers and the crusade for independence to the Monroe Doctrine, through World Wars I and II and the decades-long Cold War campaign against “godless Communism,” this coruscating polemic reveals the unacknowledged but freely exercised dogmas of civil religion that bind together a “God blessed” America, sustaining the nation in its pursuit of an ever elusive global destiny.

Harvey, “Christianity and Race in the American South”

Next month, the University of Chicago Press will release Christianity and Race in the American South by Paul Harvey (University of Colorado). The publisher’s description follows:

christianity-and-raceThe history of race and religion in the American South is infused with tragedy, survival, and water—from St. Augustine on the shores of Florida’s Atlantic Coast to the swampy mire of Jamestown to the floodwaters that nearly destroyed New Orleans. Determination, resistance, survival, even transcendence, shape the story of race and southern Christianities. In Christianity and Race in the American South, Paul Harvey gives us a narrative history of the South as it integrates into the story of religious history, fundamentally transforming our understanding of the importance of American Christianity and religious identity.

Harvey chronicles the diversity and complexity in the intertwined histories of race and religion in the South, dating back to the first days of European settlement. He presents a history rife with strange alliances, unlikely parallels, and far too many tragedies, along the way illustrating that ideas about the role of churches in the South were critically shaped by conflicts over slavery and race that defined southern life more broadly. Race, violence, religion, and southern identity remain a volatile brew, and this book is the persuasive historical examination that is essential to making sense of it.

Yaqub, “Imperfect Strangers”

This month, Cornell University Press releases Imperfect Strangers: Americans, Arabs, and U.S.–Middle East Relations in the 1970s by Salim Yaqub (University of California, Santa Barbara). The publisher’s description follows:

imperfect-strangersIn Imperfect Strangers, Salim Yaqub argues that the 1970s were a pivotal decade for U.S.-Arab relations, whether at the upper levels of diplomacy, in street-level interactions, or in the realm of the imagination. In those years, Americans and Arabs came to know each other as never before. With Western Europe’s imperial legacy fading in the Middle East, American commerce and investment spread throughout the Arab world. The United States strengthened its strategic ties to some Arab states, even as it drew closer to Israel. Maneuvering Moscow to the sidelines, Washington placed itself at the center of Arab-Israeli diplomacy. Meanwhile, the rise of international terrorism, the Arab oil embargo and related increases in the price of oil, and expanding immigration from the Middle East forced Americans to pay closer attention to the Arab world.

Yaqub combines insights from diplomatic, political, cultural, and immigration history to chronicle the activities of a wide array of American and Arab actors—political leaders, diplomats, warriors, activists, scholars, businesspeople, novelists, and others. He shows that growing interdependence raised hopes for a broad political accommodation between the two societies. Yet a series of disruptions in the second half of the decade thwarted such prospects. Arabs recoiled from a U.S.-brokered peace process that fortified Israel’s occupation of Arab land. Americans grew increasingly resentful of Arab oil pressures, attitudes dovetailing with broader anti-Muslim sentiments aroused by the Iranian hostage crisis. At the same time, elements of the U.S. intelligentsia became more respectful of Arab perspectives as a newly assertive Arab American community emerged into political life. These patterns left a contradictory legacy of estrangement and accommodation that continued in later decades and remains with us today.

Sims, “Lynched”

In October, Baylor University Press will release Lynched: the Power of Memory in a Culture of Terror by Angela Sims (Saint Paul School of Theology). The publisher’s description follows:

lynchedLynched chronicles the history and aftermath of lynching in America. By rooting her work in oral histories, Angela D. Sims gives voice to the memories of African American elders who remember lynching not only as individual acts but as a culture of violence, domination, and fear.

Lynched preserves memory even while it provides an analysis of the meaning of those memories. Sims examines the relationship between lynching and the interconnected realities of race, gender, class, and other social fragmentations that ultimately shape a person’s—and a community’s—religious self-understanding. Through this understanding, she explores how the narrators reconcile their personal and communal memory of lynching with their lived Christian experience. Moreover, Sims unearths the community’s truth that this is sometimes a story of words and at other times a story of silence.

Revealing the bond between memory and moral formation, Sims discovers the courage and hope inherent in the power of recall. By tending to the words of these witnesses, Lynched exposes not only a culture of fear and violence but the practice of story and memory, as well as the narrative of hope within a renewed possibility for justice.

Roberts, “Evangelical Gotham”

In November, the University of Chicago Press will release Evangelical Gotham: Religion and the Making of New York City, 1783-1860 by Kyle B. Roberts (Loyola University, Chicago). The publisher’s description follows:Evangelical Gotham

At first glance, evangelical and Gotham seem like an odd pair. What does a movement of pious converts and reformers have to do with a city notoriously full of temptation and sin? More than you might think, says Kyle B. Roberts, who argues that religion must be considered alongside immigration, commerce, and real estate scarcity as one of the forces that shaped the New York City we know today.

In Evangelical Gotham, Roberts explores the role of the urban evangelical community in the development of New York between the American Revolution and the Civil War. As developers prepared to open new neighborhoods uptown, evangelicals stood ready to build meetinghouses. As the city’s financial center emerged and solidified, evangelicals capitalized on the resultant wealth, technology, and resources to expand their missionary and benevolent causes. When they began to feel that the city’s morals had degenerated, evangelicals turned to temperance, Sunday school, prayer meetings, antislavery causes, and urban missions to reform their neighbors. The result of these efforts was Evangelical Gotham—a complicated and contradictory world whose influence spread far beyond the shores of Manhattan.


Lederhendler, “American Jewry”

In September, Cambridge University Press will release American Jewry: A New History by Eli Lederhendler (Hebrew University). The publisher’s description follows:American Jewry.jpg

Understanding the history of Jews in America requires a synthesis of over 350 years of documents, social data, literature and journalism, architecture, oratory, and debate, and each time that history is observed, new questions are raised and new perspectives found. This book presents a readable account of that history, with an emphasis on migration patterns, social and religious life, and political and economic affairs. It explains the long-range development of American Jewry as the product of ‘many new beginnings’ more than a direct evolution leading from early colonial experiments to latter-day social patterns. This book also shows that not all of American Jewish history has occurred on American soil, arguing that Jews, more than most other Americans, persist in assigning crucial importance to international issues. This approach provides a fresh perspective that can open up the practice of minority-history writing, so that the very concepts of minority and majority should not be taken for granted.

Lane, “Surge of Piety”

In November, Yale University Press will release Surge of Piety: Norman Vincent Peale and the Remaking of American Religious Life by Christopher Lane (Northwestern University). The publisher’s description follows:Surge of Piety

The dramatic, untold story of how Norman Vincent Peale and a handful of conservative allies fueled the massive rise of religiosity in the United States during the 1950s

Near the height of Cold War hysteria, when the threat of all-out nuclear war felt real and perilous, Presbyterian minister Norman Vincent Peale published The Power of Positive Thinking. Selling millions of copies worldwide, the book offered a gospel of self-assurance in an age of mass anxiety.

Despite Peale’s success and his ties to powerful conservatives such as Dwight D. Eisenhower, J. Edgar Hoover, and Joseph McCarthy, the full story of his movement has never been told. Christopher Lane shows how the famed minister’s brand of Christian psychology inflamed the nation’s religious revival by promoting the concept that belief in God was essential to the health and harmony of all Americans. We learn in vivid detail how Peale and his powerful supporters orchestrated major changes in a nation newly defined as living “under God.” This blurring of the lines between religion and medicine would reshape religion as we know it in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Burnidge, “A Peaceful Conquest”

In October, the University of Chicago Press will release A Peaceful Conquest: Woodrow Wilson, Religion, and the New World Order by Cara Lea Burnidge (University of Northern Iowa). The publisher’s description follows:A Peaceful Conqueswt

A century after his presidency, Woodrow Wilson remains one of the most compelling and complicated figures ever to occupy the Oval Office. A political outsider, Wilson brought to the presidency a distinctive, strongly held worldview, built on powerful religious traditions that informed his idea of America and its place in the world.

With A Peaceful Conquest, Cara Lea Burnidge presents the most detailed analysis yet of how Wilson’s religious beliefs affected his vision of American foreign policy, with repercussions that lasted into the Cold War and beyond. Framing Wilson’s intellectual development in relationship to the national religious landscape, and paying greater attention to the role of religion than in previous scholarship, Burnidge shows how Wilson’s blend of Southern evangelicalism and social Christianity became a central part of how America saw itself in the world, influencing seemingly secular policy decisions in subtle, lasting ways. Ultimately, Burnidge makes a case for Wilson’s religiosity as one of the key drivers of the emergence of the public conception of America’s unique, indispensable role in international relations.

As the presidential election cycle once again raises questions of America’s place in the world, A Peaceful Conquest offers a fascinating excavation of its little-known roots.

“Seeking the Truth” (Reinsch, ed.)

In March, the Catholic University of America Press released “Seeking the Truth: An Orestes Brownson Anthology,” edited by Richard M. Reinsch II (Liberty Fund). The publisher’s description follows:

Seeking the TruthThis anthology of essays from the great nineteenth-century thinker Orestes A. Brownson will engage the reader with key writings from one of the most compelling American Catholic intellectuals. Brownson was a spiritual seeker who migrated through Presbyterianism, Universalism, skepticism, Unitarianism, and Transcendentalist thought, and finally at age 41 to Catholicism. Politically he found himself anticipating socialism in the 1830s, then, turning into a disciple of John Calhoun’s states rights constitutionalism, and later he incorporated his criticisms of mass democracy into a unique philosophical defense of the Constitution that emerged in full bloom during the Civil War.

Brownson’s life, in its several phases, turns, and allegiances, has remained noteworthy for his rejection of modern pragmatism’s aim to obtain material comfort in service of man’s desires, while deemphasizing deeper concerns for philosophical and spiritual truth. Brownson’s writings, born from his existential wranglings were, therefore, addressed to our authentic human longings to know the truth about ourselves.

If much of late modern thought can be characterized as dualistic, fractured, and subjective, Brownson’s questing was that of a modern intellectual using modern philosophical resources in dialogue with pre-modern and classical sources to recover the dialectical whole of knowledge. Therefore the intellectual quest must contemplate the natural and the supernatural, reason and faith, religion and science, the various levels and forms of political authority, the beginning and end of man, and the relationships that exist among these sets of inquiries. Resulting from Brownson’s study of these universal questions is also a particular application of his learning. Brownson, unlike almost any other American figure, illumined the promises and the limitations of American institutions while also seeking to edify its experiment with republican self-government.

This anthology collection will be of great use for academics, graduate and undergraduate students, seminarians, and educated lay readers. the significance of Seeking the Truth is how it allows the reader to walk with Brownson through his intellectual journey and gain a further understanding of one of the best social, political, and religious thinkers of the nineteenth century.

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