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Abstract

Since R. Laurence Moore’s 1986 Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans, scholarly discussions of Robert Baird and his nineteenth and twentieth-century counterparts—including George Bancroft, Philip Schaff, Daniel Dorchester, Leonard Woolsey Bacon, William Warren Sweet, Sidney Mead, and Sydney Ahlstrom—have generally focused on the ways in which these early narratives constricted American religion to the figuration of white, Protestant clergymen and the various institutions that these American men built. Conventionally, Baird and his company are invoked by religious historians to symbolize the state-of-the-field before the turn, in the 1970s, toward critical race studies, gender studies, social history, and the consequent proliferation of micro-histories. To this end, Baird et al. typically appear only briefly in volume introductions and chapter introductions; their voluminous histories are excerpted and recited as background to inform the telling of new, more inclusive, stories. Baird’s Religion in America has become a symbol of nineteenth-century Providential history, even though, to date, there has been no large-scale study of the text. Thus, rather than relegate Baird, Schaff, Dorchester, and Bacon to the introductory pages, this project investigates their histories—that is, Baird’s Religion in The United States (1844), Schaff’s America (1854), Daniel Dorchester’s Christianity in the United States (1888), and Leonard Woolsey Bacon’s American Christianity (1898)—as the central objects of concern. By centering its analysis on these texts, this dissertation aims to destabilize their status as symbols and offer a more nuanced analysis that examines how these nineteenth-century church histories constructed unity and consensus in a period of increasing religious diversity, national instability, and rapid industrial change.

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