Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Year's Eve at the Library of Congress

Today, I spent almost six hours at the Library of Congress. What a way to spend New Year's Eve! The LOC has an excellent rare books and special collections reading room. It has been a few years since I visited last, but I recall seeing some original manuscript sources from John Witherspoon (among other eighteenth-century religious figures).

All of today was spent at the newspaper and current periodical reading room. The LOC offers access to several digitized collections of colonial newspapers. I was glad to find some substantial information on advertisements and announcements regarding some important religious books published in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. From my findings today, I need to amend the chapter that I recently wrote for my current project on Jonathan Edwards and Transatlantic Print Culture.

If you are attending the AHA/ASCH conference in Washington D.C., and have some extra time, you should consider visiting the LOC. You may also want to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library, located near the LOC.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Washington D.C. Bound

I am traveling today to Washington D.C. for the American Society of Church History annual conference. I look forward to hearing Bruce Hindmarsh's presidential address, "The Inner Life of Doctrine: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on the Calvinist-Arminian Debate among Methodists," as well as many of the very interesting papers listed on the conference program.

On Friday, January 3, from 8:30am-10:00am, I am giving a paper entitled, "The Role of Samuel Kneeland and Daniel Henchman as Jonathan Edwards's Chief Printer and Publisher at Boston." The title of the session is: "Printing Evangelicalisms: Evangelical Book Culture across Three Century." Along with myself, Keith Grant, a PhD student at the University of New Brunswick, will be speaking on "Reading the Evangelical Atlantic in Nineteenth-Century Nova Scotia," and Daniel Vaca, visiting fellow at Princeton's  Center for the Study of Religion, on "Book Bound: The Paradox of Fundamentalist Biblicism," with Catherine Brekus providing commentary.

Please don't forget to check out the session on Friday, January 3, from 10:30am-12:00pm entitled, "Evangelicalism in Modern Britain Turns Twenty-Five: Re-Examining David Bebbington's 'Quadrilateral' Thesis," sponsored by UTC and the Maclellan Foundation and chaired by Tim Larsen. It should be a lively event, with panelists Thomas Kidd, Amanda Porterfield, and Kelly Elliot giving papers that analyze Bebbington's definition of evangelicalism, and a final commentary by Bebbington. If all goes well, the Maclellan Foundation and UTC will sponsor another session on the 25th anniversary of Evangelicalism and Modern Britain at the Conference on Faith and History meeting at Pepperdine University next fall, with a completely new set of panelists.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Eighteenth-Century Boston

During winter break, my goal has been to write the first two chapters of my next book on Jonathan Edwards and transatlantic print culture in the eighteenth century. I am happy to say that I am halfway through completing my goal.

In my research for the first chapter, I was fascinated by some of the images of life in eighteenth-century Boston, including the "Town House" and Long Wharf. Originally built of wood in 1658, and financed largely by an estate gift of £300 by the merchant Robert Keayne, Boston's first town house was modeled after English town houses of the same period. In an artist's rendition (pictured to the left), we can get an idea of what the first town house might have looked like in its heyday. It stood on top of piers, with merchants conducting business on the ground level, and town government taking place on the second story.

In 1711, a fire tragically destroyed the original town house. Two years later, a new building was erected on the same site and built of brick. The building cost the enormous sum of £5,000 and measured 112 feet long by 36 feet wide on two and a half stories and featured an octagonal cupola. The basic structure still stands today and is visited by thousands of tourists each year who know it as the "Old State House." 

Heading eastward on King Street (now State Street), one would have been able see a second impressive structure: Boston's Long Wharf. Constructed in 1710 and extending 1800 feet into the harbor, the wharf was lined with over fifty warehouses which served the needs of some 1,000 ships that utilized the harbor each year.

We can envision what Boston might have looked like back then from the perspective of a visitor, who described what he saw around that time:

From the end of the Long Wharf, which lies east from the town, the buildings rise gradually with an easy ascent westward about a mile. There are a great many good houses, and several fine streets, little inferior to some of our best in London, the principal of which is King’s Street: it runs upon a line from the end of the Long Wharf, about a quarter of a mile; and at the upper end of it stands the Town House, or Guild Hall, where the Governor meets the Council, and House of Representatives; and the several Courts of Justice are held there also. And there are likewise walks for the merchants, where they meet every day at one o’clock, in imitation of the Exchange at London, which they call by the name of Royal Exchange too, round which there are several booksellers’ shops; and there are four or five printing-houses, which have full employment in printing and reprinting books, of one sort or other, that are brought from England and other parts of Europe ("Bennett's History of New England," Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society 5 (1861), 110).


Friday, 20 December 2013

A Christmas Miracle

Christmas has come early for me. After three years of graduate school at Regent College, three years of postgraduate study in Scotland, and nearly five years as an adjunct or non-tenured professor, I finally scored a tenure-track job.

Most recently, I have been a visiting assistant professor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. After a competitive search in 2011, and aided by financial support from the Maclellan Foundation, I was offered a three-year position at UTC to teach courses in religious history and thought. Last year, I was notified that the Maclellan Foundation agreed to offer financial assistance for a fourth year, (2014-2015). Because UTC did not seem optimistic about making my position tenure-track, I decided to apply to a select few faculty positions elsewhere. I was fortunate to have been invited to some interviews at the last AAR conference at Baltimore, which sparked a movement among the administrators at UTC to look into a tenure-track line for me. Thanks to the support of the Maclellan Foundation, the chair of my department, and the development office, UTC administrators agreed to make my position permanent, which allowed me to realize my dream of landing a tenure-track job teaching Christian studies.

I feel extremely fortunate to have landed a tenure-track job in this day and age. Now it's time to break open the Dom Perignon!