Review: Jonathan Israel, THE EXPANDING BLAZE

About eighteen months ago I queried at The Junto, “What Happened to the ‘Democratic’ in the ‘Age of Democratic Revolutions’?” The post was prompted by the last decade’s work that seemed to emphasize the conservative twist of the revolutionary movements that marked the last few decades of the eighteenth century. Most of this new work,…

Your Holiday Sale for Academic Books Guide

In a couple weeks I’ll post my favorite year-in-review lists—on early American history at Junto, and Mormon history at Juvenile Instructor—but today I thought I’d highlight some great sales going on with academic presses. Who could down a holiday discount? (A big shout-out to William Black, who listed a lot of the press sales on…

D. Michael Quinn, Mormon Capitalism, and New Mormon History

Few figures have been as paramount to the cultural history of Mormon scholarship as D. Michael Quinn. To some, he is an icon who fought for a more professional history and honest approach to the past; to others, he is a critic who fudges facts in order to present a polemical front. To everyone, his…

Publisher News for the Nauvoo Book

So, while I’m still two months away from American Nationalisms finally hitting the shelves, I’ve been working away on my second book. It’s tentatively titled Democracy’s Discontents: A Story of Politics, Polygamy, and Power in Mormon Nauvoo, and it is a microhistory of the Mormon city-state that was settled on the Illinois side of the Mississippi River…

Review: Tom Cutterham, GENTLEMEN REVOLUTIONARIES

The American Revolution was founded upon elite gentlemen willing to stake their reputation on a political gamble. That’s what Tom Cutterham argues in his new book, Gentlemen Revolutionaries: Power and Justice in the New American Republic (Princeton UP, 2017), anyway. The British Empire featured countless men who were eager to climb the ranks of nobility–class…

Gendered Power in Nauvoo…Presented in Nauvoo!

Today I’m catching a plane to St. Louis, followed by driving a rental car up to Nauvoo. I’m excited. Well, I’m always excited to visit Nauvoo, but I’m especially excited to head up there this weekend to present a paper in the annual John Whitmer Historical Association conference. JWHA is a fun organization dedicated to…

The Mormon Constitution

To celebrate Constitution Day, Americans often proclaim their reverence for their nation’s founding document. But to play contrarian, I thought I would highlight some of its discontents. Mormons today are recognized as some of the most patriotic citizens. And rightfully so: part of their canon of scripture includes God claiming he had “established the Constitution…

Review: Marisa Fuentes, DISPOSSESSED LIVES

Sometimes the best thing a book can do is make you feel guilty. That is certainly the case with the book I’m gisting today. There were more enslaved women in the colonial port town of Bridgetown, found on the western edge of Barbados, than any other demographic group. So why do they receive such little…

New Essay: The Council of Fifty and American Democracy

This week marks the official release of a new essay collection, The Council of Fifty: What the Records Reveal about Mormon History (BYU Religious Studies Center), edited by Matthew Grow and Eric Smith. The volume contains fifteen chapters, each from a different author. The Council of Fifty was a secretive organization established by Joseph Smith in…

Review: Lincoln Mullen, THE CHANCE OF SALVATION

In a Land of Liberty, it makes sense that the national religion is centered on choice. That’s the thrust of Lincoln Mullen’s argument in his new and ambitious book, The Chance of Salvation: A History of Conversion in America (Harvard UP, 2017). Throughout the nineteenth century, Mullen argues, Americans shifted from seeing religion as something one…