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Recent Works by Our Researchers

The Presbyterian Historical Society’s holdings support scholarship on a vast range of topics. On this page, we present a selection of recent publications by researchers who have worked with our collections.

Ireland to the Wild West: A True Story of Romance, Faith, Tragedy, and Hope by Marcus Paul (Ambassador International, December 2019)

Cover image for Ireland to the Wild WestBorn in 1846 in Ireland at the start of the "Great Hunger," James Kinnier Wilson emigrated to Philadelphia to start a new life at seventeen years old.

After his life took a dramatic turn, he found himself attending Princeton and then a college in Scotland, where he met Agnes Hately, the talented daughter of a famous figure in the Scottish "Disruption"-the emergence of the Free Church of Scotland.

Agnes and James, now newlyweds, crossed the dangerous Atlantic and settled in rural New Jersey. While there, Agnes wrote intimate letters home about her children, the people around her, the church, and the dangers of endemic disease.

Called in 1878 to the Wild West to found churches and to farm, Agnes again revealed in detail the conditions of her life on the frontier and her impressions of American women, cowboys, servant girls, church-goers, and provides some never before seen detail to what is called the "Last Indian Raid in Kansas."

In Ireland to the Wild West, Marcus Paul uses these letters penned by Agnes to take readers on a journey through Agnes and James' engagement, marriage, dangerous travels, and their arrival and life in America.
 

Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control by Stephen Kinzer (Henry Holt and Co., September 2019)

Cover image for Poisoner in ChiefThe visionary chemist Sidney Gottlieb was the CIA’s master magician and gentlehearted torturer―the agency’s “poisoner in chief.” As head of the MK-ULTRA mind control project, he directed brutal experiments at secret prisons on three continents. He made pills, powders, and potions that could kill or maim without a trace―including some intended for Fidel Castro and other foreign leaders. He paid prostitutes to lure clients to CIA-run bordellos, where they were secretly dosed with mind-altering drugs. His experiments spread LSD across the United States, making him a hidden godfather of the 1960s counterculture. For years he was the chief supplier of spy tools used by CIA officers around the world.

Stephen Kinzer, author of groundbreaking books about U.S. clandestine operations, draws on new documentary research and original interviews to bring to life one of the most powerful unknown Americans of the twentieth century. Gottlieb’s reckless experiments on “expendable” human subjects destroyed many lives, yet he considered himself deeply spiritual. He lived in a remote cabin without running water, meditated, and rose before dawn to milk his goats.

During his twenty-two years at the CIA, Gottlieb worked in the deepest secrecy. Only since his death has it become possible to piece together his astonishing career at the intersection of extreme science and covert action. Poisoner in Chief reveals him as a clandestine conjurer on an epic scale.
 

A Social History of Cuba's Protestants: God and the Nation by James A. Baer (Lexington Books, July 2019)

Cover image for Social History of Cuba's ProtestantsA Social History of Cuba’s Protestants: God and the Nation presents a religious and social history of Cuba, focusing on the Presbyterian and other Protestant churches, to show the continuity of ties between US and Cuban churches before and after the revolution in 1959. By examining the history of Cuba’s Protestants as agents of social change within Cuba and as partners with US denominations, James A. Baer offers a unique assessment of Cuba’s development as a nation and its relationship with the United States. Scholars of Latin American studies, religion, history, and social movements will find this book particularly useful.

 

Children’s Literature and Transnational Knowledge in Modern China: Education, Religion, and Childhood, by Shih-Wen Sue Chen (Palgrave Macmillan, June 2019)

cover image for Children's Literature and Transnational KnowledgeChildren’s Literature and Transnational Knowledge in Modern China examines the development of Chinese children’s literature from the late Qing to early Republican era. It highlights the transnational flows of knowledge, texts, and cultures during a time when children’s literature in China and the West was developing rapidly. Drawing from a rich archive of periodicals, novels, tracts, primers, and textbooks, the author analyzes how Chinese children’s literature published by Protestant missionaries and Chinese educators in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries presented varying notions of childhood. In this period of dramatic transition from the dynastic Qing empire to the new Republican China, young readers were offered different models of childhood, some of which challenged dominant Confucian ideas of what it meant to be a child. This volume sheds new light on a little-explored aspect of Chinese literary history. Through its contributions to the fields of children’s literature, book history, missionary history, and translation studies, it enhances our understanding of the negotiations between Chinese and Western cultures that shaped the publication and reception of Chinese texts for children.
 

Protestantism and State Formation in Postrevolutionary Oaxaca, by Kathleen M. McIntyre (University of New Mexico Press, May 2019)

Protestanism and State Formation cover imageIn this fascinating book Kathleen M. McIntyre traces intra-village conflicts stemming from Protestant conversion in southern Mexico and successfully demonstrates that both Protestants and Catholics deployed cultural identity as self-defense in clashes over local power and authority. McIntyre's study approaches religious competition through an examination of disputes over tequio (collective work projects) and cargo (civil-religious hierarchy) participation. By framing her study between the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and the Zapatista uprising of 1994, she demonstrates the ways Protestant conversion fueled regional and national discussions over the state's conceptualization of indigenous citizenship and the parameters of local autonomy. The book's timely scholarship is an important addition to the growing literature on transnational religious movements, gender, and indigenous identity in Latin America.
 

Medicine Women: The Story of the First Native American Nursing School, by Jim Kristofic (University of New Mexico Press, April 2019)

Cover image for Medicine WomenAfter the Indian wars, many Americans still believed that the only good Indian was a dead Indian. But at Ganado Mission in the Navajo country of northern Arizona, a group of missionaries and doctors--who cared less about saving souls and more about saving lives--chose a different way and persuaded the local parents and medicine men to allow them to educate their daughters as nurses. The young women struggled to step into the world of modern medicine, but they knew they might become nurses who could build a bridge between the old ways and the new.

In Medicine Women: The Story of the First Native American Nursing School, Jim Kristofic traces the story of Ganado Mission on the Navajo Indian Reservation. Kristofic's personal connection with the community creates a nuanced historical understanding that blends engaging narrative with careful scholarship to share the stories of the people and their commitment to this place.
 

Protestants, Gender and the Arab Renaissance in Late Ottoman Syria, by Deanna Womack (Edinburgh University Press, April 2019)

Protestants, Gender and the Arab Renaissance cover imageThe Ottoman Syrians - residents of modern Syria and Lebanon - formed the first Arabic-speaking Evangelical Church in the region. Protestants, Gender and the Arab Renaissance in Late Ottoman Syria offers a fresh narrative of the encounters of this minority Protestant community with American missionaries, Eastern churches and Muslims at the height of the Nahda, from 1860 to 1915.

Drawing on rare Arabic publications, it challenges historiography that focuses on Western male actors. Instead it shows that Syrian Protestant women and men were agents of their own history who sought the salvation of Syria while adapting and challenging missionary teachings. These pioneers established a critical link between evangelical religiosity and the socio-cultural currents of the Nahda, making possible the literary and educational achievements of the American Syria Mission and transforming Syrian society in ways that still endure today.

Read Deanna Womack's post The Things She Saved: Images and Objects in Missionary Women's Archives on the PHS blog.
 

Irish Presbyterians and the Shaping of Western Pennsylvania, 1770-1830, by Peter E. Gilmore (University of Pittsburgh Press, November 2018)

Cover image for Irish PresbyteriansIrish Presbyterians and the Shaping of Western Pennsylvania, 1770–1830 is a historical study examining the religious culture of Irish immigrants in the early years of America. Despite fractious relations among competing sects, many immigrants shared a vision of a renewed Ireland in which their versions of Presbyterianism could flourish free from the domination of landlords and established church. In the process, they created the institutional foundations for western Pennsylvanian Presbyterian churches.

Rural Presbyterian Irish church elders emphasized community and ethnoreligious group solidarity in supervising congregants’ morality. Improved transportation and the greater reach of the market eliminated near-subsistence local economies and hastened the demise of religious traditions brought from Ireland. Gilmore contends that ritual and daily religious practice, as understood and carried out by migrant generations, were abandoned or altered by American-born generations in the context of major economic change.
 

Perplexing Patriarchies: Fatherhood Among Black Opponents and White Defenders of Slavery, by Pierre Islam (Vernon Press, September 2018)

Cover image for Perplexing PatriarchiesPerplexing Patriarchies examines the rhetorical usage (and lived experience) of fatherhood among three African American abolitionists and three of their white proslavery opponents in the United States during the nineteenth century. Both the prominent abolitionists (Frederick Douglass, Martin Delany, and Henry Garnet), as well as the prominent proslavery advocates (Henry Hammond, George Fitzhugh, and Richard Dabney), appealed to the popular image of the father, husband, and head of household in order to attack or justify slavery.

How and why could these opposing individuals rely on appeals to the same ideal of fatherhood to come to completely different and opposing conclusions? This book strives to find the answer by first acknowledging that both the abolitionists and the proslavery men shared similar concerns about the contested status of fatherhood in the nineteenth century. However, due to subtle differences in their starting assumptions, and different choices of what parts of a father's responsibilities to emphasize, the black abolitionists conceived of an ideal father who protected the autonomy of his dependents, while the proslavery men conceived of one whose authority necessitated the subordination of those he protected.

Finding that these differences arose from choices in starting assumptions and emphases rather than total disagreement on what the role of the father should be, this work reveals that black abolitionists were not radically critiquing the gender conventions of their day, but innovatively working within those conventions to turn them towards social reform. This discovery opens up a new way for historians to consider how oppressed peoples negotiated the intellectual boundaries of the societies which oppressed them: not necessarily breaking entirely from those boundaries, nor passively accepting them, but ingeniously synthesizing a worldview from within their confines that still allowed for freedom and personal autonomy.
 

The Hymnal: A Reading History, by Christopher Phillips (Johns Hopkins University Press, August 2018)

Cover image for They HymnalIt stands barely three inches high, a small brick of a book. The pages are skewed a bit, and evidence of a small handprint remains on the worn, cheap leather covers that don’t quite close. The book bears the marks of considerable use. But why―and for whom―was it made?

Christopher N. Phillips' The Hymnal is the first study to reconstruct the practices of reading and using hymnals, which were virtually everywhere in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Isaac Watts invented a small, words-only hymnal at the dawn of the eighteenth century. For the next two hundred years, such hymnals were their owners’ constant companions at home, school, church, and in between. They were children's first books, slaves’ treasured heirlooms, and sources of devotional reading for much of the English-speaking world. Hymnals helped many people learn to memorize poetry and to read; they provided space to record family memories, pass notes in church, and carry everything from railroad tickets to holy cards to business letters. In communities as diverse as African Methodists, Reform Jews, Presbyterians, Methodists, Roman Catholics, and Unitarians, hymnals were integral to religious and literate life.

An extended historical treatment of the hymn as a read text and media form, rather than a source used solely for singing, this book traces the lives people lived with hymnals, from obscure schoolchildren to Emily Dickinson. Readers will discover a wealth of connections between reading, education, poetry, and religion in Phillips’s lively accounts of hymnals and their readers.

Read Christopher Phillips' post Psalms, Hymns, and…Piracy? on the PHS blog.
 

African Testimony in the Movement for Congo Reform: The Burden of Proof by Robert Burroughs (Routledge, July 2018)

Cover image for African TestimonyThe humanitarian movement against Leopold’s violent colonisation of the Congo emerged out of Europe, but it depended at every turn on African input. Individuals and groups from throughout the upper Congo River basin undertook journeys of daring and self-sacrifice to provide evidence of atrocities for the colonial authorities, missionaries, and international investigators.

Combining archive research with attention to recent debates on the relation between imperialism and humanitarianism, on trauma, witnessing and postcolonial studies, and on the recovery of colonial archives, African Testimony in the Movement for Congo Reform examines the conditions in which colonised peoples were able to speak about their subjection, and those in which attempts at testimony were thwarted.

Robert Burroughs makes a major intervention by identifying African agency and input as a key factor in the Congo atrocities debate. This is an important and unique book in African history, imperial and colonial history, and humanitarian history.
 

Southern White Ministers and the Civil Rights Movement by Elaine Allen Lechtreck (University Press of Mississippi, June 2018)

Southern White Ministers cover imageIn 1963, the Sunday after four black girls were killed by a bomb in a Birmingham church, George William Floyd, a Church of Christ minister, preached a sermon based on the Golden Rule. He pronounced that Jesus Christ was asking Christians to view the bombing from the perspective of their black neighbors and asserted, "We don't realize it yet, but because Martin Luther King Jr. is preaching nonviolence, which is Jesus's way, someday Martin Luther King Jr. will be seen as the best friend the white man in the South has ever had." During the sermon, members of the congregation yelled, "You devil, you!" and, immediately, Floyd was dismissed. Although not every antisegregation white minister was as outspoken as Pastor Floyd, many signed petitions, organized interracial groups, or preached gently from a gospel of love and justice. Those who spoke and acted outright on behalf of the civil rights movement were harassed, beaten, and even jailed.

Based on interviews and personal memoirs, Southern White Ministers and the Civil Rights Movement traces the efforts of these clergymen who--deeply moved by the struggle of African Americans--looked for ways to reconcile the history of discrimination and slavery with Christian principles and to help their black neighbors. While many understand the role political leaders on national stages played in challenging the status quo of the South, this book reveals the significant contribution of these ministers in breaking down segregation through preaching a message of love.
 

Gods of Indian Country: Religion and the Struggle for the American West by Jennifer Graber (Oxford University Press, April 2018)

Cover image for Gods of Indian CountryDuring the nineteenth century, white Americans sought the cultural transformation and physical displacement of Native people. Though this process was certainly a clash of rival economic systems and racial ideologies, it was also a profound spiritual struggle. The fight over Indian Country sparked religious crises among both Natives and Americans.

In The Gods of Indian Country, Jennifer Graber tells the story of the Kiowa Indians during Anglo-Americans' hundred-year effort to seize their homeland. Like Native people across the American West, Kiowas had known struggle and dislocation before. But the forces bearing down on them-soldiers, missionaries, and government officials-were unrelenting. With pressure mounting, Kiowas adapted their ritual practices in the hope that they could use sacred power to save their lands and community.

Against the Kiowas stood Protestant and Catholic leaders, missionaries, and reformers who hoped to remake Indian Country. These activists saw themselves as the Indians' friends, teachers, and protectors. They also asserted the primacy of white Christian civilization and the need to transform the spiritual and material lives of Native people. When Kiowas and other Native people resisted their designs, these Christians supported policies that broke treaties and appropriated Indian lands. They argued that the gifts bestowed by Christianity and civilization outweighed the pains that accompanied the denial of freedoms, the destruction of communities, and the theft of resources. In order to secure Indian Country and control indigenous populations, Christian activists sanctified the economic and racial hierarchies of their day.

Read Jennifer Graber's post The “Problem” of Native American Church Membership on the PHS blog.
 

Please contact us to let us know about forthcoming publications. We will update the list periodically but will always aim for about a dozen books published within the last five years.