Sunday, January 5, 2014

Book Review: The Origins of Southern Evangelicalism Revisited

Thomas J. Little, The Origins of Southern Evangelicalism: Religious Revivalism in the South Carolina Lowcountry, 1670-176(University of South Carolina Press, 2013).

Here’s an important and (relatively) new title to call to your attention, especially for those of you in colonial history, southern religious history, and eighteenth-century American studies.

In this work, Thomas Little seeks to revisit the “origins” question – in this case, the “origins of southern evangelicalism.” And he does so through intensive, painstaking research into religious practices in South Carolina through the late 17
th and first half of the 18th century.
 There are bits and pieces of this story (Jonathan Bryan, George Whitefield’s tours, the SPG missionary Francis Le Jau, and a few others) which have been discussed elsewhere and are staples of the story; but there are an awful lot of people in here that I had scarcely or never heard of, and remarkable stories from individual congregations and congregants – featuring Harold Camping style ranting about the end days, German Pietists who murdered people in their own congregation, Quaker women who were publishing defenses of women in the ministry, and Protestant dissenters from all over Europe who were coming into South Carolina to man newly opening frontier towns but along with them brought a huge variety of Protestant practices that set Anglicans’ teeth on edge – that I’ve never seen so extensively narrated and discussed before. The end result is a persuasive pressing of his thesis, that evangelical revivalism and dissent came along much earlier than is usually depicted. 

John Boles’s blurb captures this perfect: “By shifting his focus away from Virginia, Little shows that a vibrant and lasting evangelical subculture developed much earlier than generally recognized, decades before the Revolution.”

Read the rest here

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