Thomas Jefferson, the Founding Fathers and Christianity: Interview with Sam Haselby


Recently on Twitter, a debate broke out between Annette Gordon-Reed, Sam Haselby, and John Fea on the nature of Thomas Jefferson’s religious beliefs. The debate centered on the questions of whether or not Thomas Jefferson could be described as a Christian and wanted the United States to be a Christian nation. Ultimately, the debate could not overcome the 140 character limitations of Twitter. Fortunately, Michael Hattem preserved that debate at Jefferson, Christianity, and Twitter.

Instead of recreating the debate, it made more sense to contact one of the participants, Sam Haselby, whose recent book The Origins of American Religious Nationalism(published by Oxford University Press) examines how a conflict with Protestantism, in the decades following US independence transformed American national identity. Gordon Wood described his book in the New York Review of Books as an “impressive and powerfully argued book – that ….it was American Protestantism and not any sort of classical republicanism that was most important in shaping the development of American nationalism.” The Origins of American Religious Nationalism was published in 2015 and will be republished in paperback by OUP in December 2016. It made sense to get his perspective on the concept of American Religious Nationalism, the broad issues that underpinned the recent Twitter debate, and his understanding of early American Christianity.

Sam Haselby is a visiting scholar at the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life at Columbia University and the editor of Aeon magazine. He recently published an article for Aeon entitled American Secular explaining why the secular movement failed soon after the founding of the United States.

Here is our interview.

10 Books to Help You Celebrate Bourbon Heritage Month Like a Kentuckian

The University Press of Kentucky has published a Top Ten list of books that will help you celebrate Bourbon Heritage Month like a Kentuckian. Their suggested books are a mix of histories, cookbooks and travel guides.

Here are UK Press’s ten selections:

History Books:

Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage by Michael Veach

The Social History of Bourbon by Gerald Carson

Kentucky Bourbon: The Early Years of Whiskeymaking by Henry G. Crowgey

Moonshiners and Prohibitionists: The Battle Over Alcohol in Southern Appalachia (New Directions in Southern History) by Bruce E. Stewart

Madam Belle: Sex, Money, and Influence in a Southern Brothel (Topics in Kentucky History) by Maryjean Wall

Cookbooks and Cocktail Recipes:

The Old Fashioned: An Essential Guide to the Original Whiskey Cocktail by Albert W.A. Schmid

The Kentucky Mint Julep by Joe Nickell

The Kentucky Bourbon Cookbook by Albert W.A. Schmid

Bourbon Desserts by Lynn Marie Hulsman

Travel Guide:

Kentucky Bourbon Country: The Essential Travel Guide by Susan Reigler

Check out the link to the University of Kentucky Press blog website.

Check out the Bookshelf at Powell’s Books.

Top Ten 19th-Century American Intellectual History Booklist

Intellectual history is an intriguing field because it is by its very nature cross-disciplinary.  While these books my be in arguably different fields (History of Sex, History of Religion, Legal History, History of Technology, Political History, etc.) they are all, at their core, deeply concerned with the history of ideas.  Intellectual history is not the history of old, white philosophers stroking their beards behind mahogany desks.

One of the books on this list, The Metaphysical Club, has already appeared on one of our lists in the past – .  It not only explored the philosophical concept of pragmatism, but it helped illuminate the history of the Gilded Age. Nathan Hatch’s book The Democratization of Christianity looks at the Second Great Awakening and is a preeminent book of American Religious History.  Still, the Second Great Awakening was not just a religious movement because contained important intellectual ideas that changed the course of American history.  Each of these books, in their own way, accomplish this delicate balancing act.

As with all of our lists, we hope that people will comment on our selections.  If someone makes a compelling argument why one of the books on this list should be replaced with another book, we will consider creating a new and hopefully better 19th-Century American Intellectual History Booklist 2.0.

  1.  Louis Menand,  The Metaphysical Club (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2002)

  1.  Irving H. Bartlett, The American Mind in the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Wiley-Blackwell, 1982)

  1.  Anne C. Rose, Voices of the Marketplace: American Thought and Culture, 1830-1860 (Rowman & Littlefield, 2004)
  2.  Kenneth Cmiel, Democratic Eloquence: The Fight over Popular Speech in Nineteenth-Century America (University of California Press, 1991)

  1.  Nancy Isenberg, Sex and Citizenship in Antebellum America (UNC Press, 1998)
  •  Lewis Perry, Boats Against the Current: American Culture Between Revolution and Modernity, 1820-1860 (Oxford University Press, 1993)

    1.  Rosalind Rosenberg, Beyond Separate Spheres: Intellectual Roots of Modern Feminism (Yale University Press, 1983)

    1.  Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (Oxford University Press, 2000 – 35th Anniversary Edition)

    1.  Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (Yale University Press, 1989)

    1. Jeffrey Sklansky, The Soul’s Economy: Market Society and Selfhood in American Thought, 1820-1920 (UNC Press, 2002)

    Check out our Bookshelf at Powell’s Books.