Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Historiography of the English Reformation (Part 4 of 4)

This post is my fourth and final installment in a series designed to size up what modern historians have said about the English Reformation. It's been a long while since I last posted about any of this. So here are links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

In 1992, Eamon Duffy published The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c. 1400-c. 1580, a bombshell of a book that quickly established itself as one of the most substantial and significant works produced by any of the revisionists. [1] The first of two main parts of The Stripping of the Altars describes in great detail the relative glories of England’s traditional religion during the century leading up to the reign of King Henry VIII. Duffy attempts to demonstrate “that late medieval Catholicism exerted an enormously strong, diverse, and vigorous hold over the imagination and the loyalty of the people up to the very moment of the Reformation.” [2] In the second part of his book, Duffy details what he portrays as the disruptive reforms that took place during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I. He argues that the short reign of Mary with its restoration of tradition was a success welcomed by the large majority of the laity. Duffy cites a wide array of primary sources, including wills, church-wardens’ accounts, primers, and parish records. In addition, he includes several impressive images of paintings, monuments, sepulchers, stained-glass church windows, and carvings, all of which he uses to underscore his principle contention: “into the 1530s the vigour, richness, and creativity of late medieval religion was undiminished, and continued to hold the imagination and elicit the loyalty of the majority of the population.” [3]

Since he first published his seminal work, Duffy has taken on the task of reinforcing his basic thesis. In a 2001 book, Voices of Morebath: Reformation & Rebellion in an English Village, Duffy provides a case study that illustrates the general claims of his magnum opus. The book is about “a sixteenth-century country priest,” Sir Christopher Trychay, who served the people of Morebath, a village of Devon twenty-five miles north of Exeter. Two things about Trychay stand out. First, he was vicar of Morebath for over a half century, “from 1520 until his death in 1574.” Second, he “wrote everything down.” Consequently, Trychay’s accounts “offer a unique window into a rural world in crisis, as the progress of the Reformation inexorably dismantled the structures of Morebath’s corporate life, and pillaged its assets.” Duffy acknowledges that if someone wrote a similar book with Essex or Suffolk as its setting, that book “would look very different.” He seems content simply to offer an engaging example of how it was that in some parts of England compliance and conformity were not the rule. In Morebath, Sir Christopher publicly opposed the Reformation and thanked God for the reign and reforms of Queen Mary. Members of his congregation died in the Prayer Book rebellion of 1549. Duffy disavows that this book supports any thesis. But in view of his previous work, that sort of disclaimer rings a bit hollow. [4]

If Eamon Duffy's The Stripping of the Altars has been the revisionists’ most significant book, Christopher Haigh has been their strongest, most engaging, and perhaps most judicious champion. In his 1993 book, English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors, Haigh set out to demonstrate that England's pre-Reformation religious tradition was both popular and strong. At the same time, he committed himself to acknowledging and accounting for the genuine diversity of religious life in pre-Reformation England. “We need a version of religious conflict and transformation which includes both sides of the fence—and those who sat on the fence, those who could not find, it, and those who did not see why there was such a fuss about the fence.” [5] Much like Scarisbrick and Duffy, Haigh argues that “it was the break with Rome which was to cause the decline of Catholicism, not the decline of Catholicism which led to the break with Rome.” [6] As a result of its enforced Reformation, England was populated by “parish Anglicans” who were “de-catholicized but un-protestantized." [7]

Sometime after the basic thesis associated with the names A. G. Dickens and G. R. Elton was seriously challenged, if not demolished, by the likes of Haigh, Scarisbrick, and Duffy, a few scholars began to wonder what might be next. The revisionist program had succeeded in what seems to have been a mission of correction. So then what was the next step? If the thesis of the Whig-Protestants had been effectively contradicted by the antithesis put forward by the revisionists, what might be a satisfying synthesis? Of course, that question assumes that a synthesis might be needed. Since sometime near the beginning of the twenty-first century, many scholars have agreed that one is needed. Why? It is because of something that Patrick Collinson in 2003 referred to “the riddle of compliance.” By way of explanation he wrote, “We may be forced to construct the following syllogism: a religious change so drastic and so unwelcome cannot have happened: but it did happen; ergo, it cannot have been all that drastic and unwelcome.” At that point, Collinson referred to the then-emerging, post-revisionist historiography of the English Reformation: "Among those who believe that there was a great change, there is a consensus that it must be understood in terms of interplay of what have been called 'from above' and 'from below' factors and forces. Neither top-down nor bottom-up explanations will work on their own. [8]

Ethan H. Shagan’s 2003 book, Popular Politics and the English Reformation provides a good example of the post-revisionism of which Collinson spoke. Shagan actually begins with the riddle of compliance, the contradiction that begs to be solved. English society in the early modern period was conservative. Consequently, that society would likely resist a radical changeover from Roman Catholicism to beliefs and religious practices that were in line with principles of reform. So then, how did the English Reformation take root as quickly as it apparently did? Or as Shagan puts it, “Why would a revolution have been accepted or embraced by a population so heavily invested in the very belief system that the revolutionaries sought to disturb?” [9] He responds by suggesting that “an analysis of popular politics allows us to understand the English Reformation—and, mutatis mutandis, the European Reformation more generally—in fundamentally new and more satisfying ways.” Though revisionists were right to identify strong popular resistance to the English Reformation, their version of the story left unexplained “the remarkable penetration of England’s ‘Reformation from above.’ ” In other words, revisionist accounts of the English Reformation never explained how that episode could leave behind what Christopher Haigh so memorably described as “a Protestant nation, but not a nation of Protestants.” [10]

Shagan points out that, unlike Saul of Tarsus and Augustine of Hippo, no society, especially not English society in the early modern period, experiences religious conversion in a single moment. Societies do not have religious conversions like individuals do. Yet, that was something like the story told by Whig-Protestant historians. Then came revisionism, officially beginning in the 1970s. By any measure, a simple comparison would have to conclude that revisionism won, and rightly so. Yet, says Shagan, “for all its benefits, the revisionist model remains no less imprisoned than its predecessor in a paradigm defined by the phantasmagoric goal of ‘national conversion’.” Was the English Reformation essentially about the religious conversions of individuals? Shagan insists that “the whole meta-narrative of conversion which historians have used to conceptualise the Reformation has impeded our ability to ask a different set of questions, to see the Reformation not in globalizing terms but as a more piecemeal process in which politics and spiritual change were irrevocably intertwined.” Thus, his analysis “concentrates on the majority who neither wholly accepted nor wholly opposed the Reformation.” It argues that “the amphibiousness and ambidexterity of new religious ideas is exactly what allowed them to penetrate English culture, seeping into the myriad crevices in the dominant belief system where ideas and practices were not fully aligned.” [11] But what exactly constituted resistance to and collaboration with the English Reformation? For one thing, Shagan says, there were instances where individuals, out of personal animosity, turned in a neighbor who was suspected of practicing an illegal religion. Interestingly, he compares England during the Reformation to Nazi-occupied countries in Europe and to those socialist republics that were dominated by the Soviet Union. He points out that even in a monarchy, government requires a measure of consent from the governed. [12] In sum, Popular Politics and the English Reformation is “an analysis of how ordinary English subjects received, interpreted, debated and influenced the process of religious change in the first quarter century of the English Reformation.” [13]

Responding to the questions created by the new era and sizing up the field of inquiry was the apparent goal of a 2009 article by scholar Peter Marshall titled, “(Re)defining the English Reformation.” Marshall noted that due to the arguments forcefully advanced by the revisionists, “most scholars now accept that the Reformation in England was a thorny and protracted process and by no means straightforwardly unidirectional.” Notwithstanding the success of the revisionist project, however, “the study of the Reformation has now discernibly passed into a post-revisionist phase.” [14] Indeed, Marshall even cites the revisionists themselves as they have recently claimed to be post-revisionists. In a review published in 2000, Haigh made the suggestion that “we are (almost) all post-revisionists now.” And, in a survey article published in 2006, “The English Reformation after Revisionism,” Duffy said much the same for himself. [15] Marshall observes that now that such ambiguity has been so firmly established, students should not have been surprised when a collection of presentations, edited by Nicholas Tyacke and published in 1998, should appear under a title like England's Long Reformation, 1500-1800. [16] Having dispensed with the notion that the English Reformation occurred in a matter of decades, scholars now seem unable to name the century when it came to a close. Yet, the year 1640 appears to be the “workaday consensus” that has emerged. Either way, Marshall still wants to know, “What, then, is the sensible way forward?” [17]

However one might answer that question, there does seem to be some continuity among the post-revisionists. A title published in 2014, Reformation Unbound: Protestant Visions of Reform in England, 1525-1590, by Karl Gunther, provides an example of this. As noted above, the author’s mentor, Ethan Shagan, chose to focus on the first twenty-five years of the English Reformation. And, again, the volume edited by Tyacke lengthens the episode at both ends, using the dates 1500-1800. In a way that appears to match that trend, Gunther makes an argument about the beginnings of radical Protestantism in England. He observes that in the context of our subject, traditionally the word radicalism has been reserved to speak first of Puritanism. Thus, radicalism emerged roughly a half century after England was first introduced to Reformation ideas. As the author notes, radical religious impulses have been “typically treated as later developments in the course of the English Reformation.” [18] Citing a few manuscripts and a large number of printed works from the period, Gunther sets out to show that from earliest times in the English Reformation, at least some proponents advocated the restructuring of church polity and leadership, for example, according to the teaching of the Scriptures. As Gunther puts it, those calls did not wait for “the coming of the Presbyterians in the 1570s.” In fact, “they had been issued by evangelicals in the late 1520 and 1530s.” [19] Thus, according to Gunther, when various Puritan teachings emerged in the 1570s, we may be more accurate to describe that action as a re-emergence. In short, as a result of what post-revisionists have taught us so far, the English Reformation seems longer and more complex than was once imagined.

My survey of some important titles in the recent historiography of the English Reformation leaves me with at least two very general observations. First, if we simply trace the history of various schools of interpretation, we might come away with a mental picture of thick, high walls standing between the different positions. However, when reading the acknowledgements and noting the personal connections among many of the authors cited above, I did not imagine high walls, but something more like a portrait of a large extended family. In other words, while historiographical surveys tend to highlight differences and discontinuity, actually reading the books and articles reveals connections and fitting admiration. Those connections relate not only to academic tutelage and personal experiences, they also relate to the level of ideas. For example, when reading historiographical outlines of the topic, one might never guess that A. G. Dickens paid attention to social as well as to institutional contours of the English Reformation. Moreover, one can easily detect in Dickens an appreciation for the real complexity of the story he attempts to relate. In that sense, his work and the work of others in his generation does not appear to be so much the foil, but more like the foundation of later interpretations.

Second, in regard to Roger B. Manning’s categories of official, theological, and popular aspects of the English Reformation, scholars almost always focus on some aspect found within just one of those three areas, especially when writing articles and monographs. That is to be expected. Yet, I cannot help noticing that the religious and theological history of the English Reformation seems to have been relegated mostly to scholars who teach in divinity schools and seminaries. Why does so much of the historiography on this topic refer so little to the Bible and contemporary theological debate? Is it mere coincidence that Karl Gunther has identified very early radicalism in the English Reformation while paying attention to people like William Tyndale, to issues like adiaphora, and to books like an old commentary on Haggai? If not, then it might be time to move the divinity school down the hill and place it in the same building that houses the history department.

[1] Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England c. 1400-c. 1580 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992).

[2] Ibid., 4.

[3] Ibid., 479.

[4] Eamon Duffy, The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in An English Village (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001), xiii-xv.

[5] Christopher Haigh, English Reformations: Religion, Politics, and Society under the Tudors (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993), 335.

[6] Ibid., 28.

[7] Ibid., 290.

[8] Collinson, The Reformation: A History, 129.

[9] Ethan H. Shagan, Popular Politics and the English Reformation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 1.

[10] Ibid., 2. Shagan cites Haigh, English Reformations, 279-281.

[11] Shagan, Popular Politics, 3-7.

[12] Ibid., 12-20.

[13] Ibid., 22.

[14] Peter Marshall, “(Re)defining the English Reformation,” Journal of British Studies 48 (July 2009), 565.

[15] Ibid., 565, n. 7.

[16] Ibid. See Nicholas Tyacke, ed. England’s Long Reformation, 1500-1800 (London: Taylor and Francis, 1998).

[17] Marshall, “(Re)defining the English Reformation,” 568.

[18] Karl Gunther, Reformation Unbound: Protestant Visions of Reform in England, 1525-1590 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 6.

[19] Ibid., 254.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Peter Burke on Counter-Reformation Saints

Peter Burke, “How To Be a Counter-Reformation Saint,” in Religion and Society in Early Modern Europe, edited by Kaspar von Greyerz. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1984, pp. 45-55.

Peter Burke is an eminent and prolific historian of early modern Europe. He begins this chapter by affirming that the cult of the saints is a significant historical indicator because, like other heroes, saints “reflect the values of the culture which sees them in a heroic light.” After tracing the historical development of saint-making, Burke notes that while the idea of holy people is not unique to Christianity, “[w]hat does appear to be uniquely Christian . . . is the idea that saints are not only extremely virtuous people, but also efficacious mediators with God on behalf of the living; more powerful, more valuable dead than alive” (45).

At the dawn of the Reformation, this idea came under increasing fire. Essentially, Reformation critics of the cult of the saints said that it was hardly different from the old Greco-Roman cult of heroes (45-46). These sorts of accusations troubled Roman Catholic authorities who initiated two significant changes. First, they placed more emphasis on verifying accounts of the lives of saints. Second, “the procedure for admitting new saints was tightened up.” Along this line, most revealing is the fact that between 1523 and 1588, there were no new canonizations (46).

The year 1588 not only saw the first canonization in decades, it also witnessed another significant development: the establishment of “the Congregation of Sacred Rites and Ceremonies, a standing committee of cardinals whose responsibilities included canonizations” (46). And, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Roman Catholic authorities made the canonization process increasingly bureaucratic and systematized (46-47).

The second of two major sections in Burke’s chapter deals “with the successful, the happy few, the fifty-five individuals canonized between 1588, when the practice was revived, and 1767, which was followed by another hiatus, this time for forty years” (48). Who in this period was most likely to become a Counter-Reformation saint? Burke notes that these saints number a grand total of 55. With such a small sample, it makes no sense to discuss percentages. However, we can make some observations. Who were most likely to be canonized? Burke replies,

1. men
2. Italians and Spaniards
3. nobles, as opposed to commoners
4. clerics, as opposed to lay people
5. clerics in a religious order, as opposed to secular clergy
6. Franciscans (49-50)

Who saw these people as virtuous? Burke says that there are two places to look: first, the grassroots, home of a particular saint, and, second, the center, where sanctity was made official (50). Also, there seem to have been a number of standard saintly roles. Burke enumerates these as well:

1. the founder of a religious order
2. a missionary
3. someone who devoted himself to charitable activities
4. the pastor who was an especially good shepherd
5. the mystic or ecstatic Christian (50-51)

Finally, Burke raises the question of how and why certain cults were “adopted by the center and made official." It has to be kept in mind that in an era when papal canonization is exclusive, the ideas and prejudices of the popes are vital. What factors seem to have made a difference? Burke answers that

1. Sometimes the personal or school connections between a pope and a prospective saint were significant.
2. Pressure groups who politicked for their saint were sometimes made a critical difference.
3. Pressure from rulers rarely hurt.
4. The advocacy of family members of high standing, with money to contribute to the Church, could make a difference. (52-53)

Burke concludes by observing that "[t]he imputation of sainthood, like its converse, the imputation of heresy or witchcraft, should be seen as a process of interaction or ‘negotiation’ between center and periphery, each with its own definition of the situation” (53). This short chapter is a fine model of how a scholar might raise and respond to a significant historical question. For those teaching, say, a course in the history of Christianity, Burke’s brief survey would provide some basic points of an informative lecture.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Betty Jo Osborne, 1926-2014

Betty Osborne died two years ago today. The following is an excerpt from the funeral message.  . . .

The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us that, “To everything there is a season; and a time for every purpose under heaven.” How well we know that today, for in the words of one of the author's many phrases, “there is a time to be born, and a time to die.” Here we are because Betty was born, and now has died. So we’ve gathered in this place to remember, and to give thanks to Almighty God for her life, for our time with her.

We never know when death will come, which is precisely why the Bible encourages us to always be ready to meet our Maker. Betty Osborne was ready. She loved the Lord. She lived according to His Word. She walked in the footsteps of Jesus, and she served him whole-heartedly.

Betty Osborne was one of the finest people I have ever known, a great example of what a Christian should be. She and Bill were such a dynamic couple. I never met them until they moved to Altus in 1979, when Bill became the new preacher for the congregation that meets in this place. In a short time, the two of them made an indelible impression on me. One of the things that always stood out was that Betty and Bill Osborne were masters of building up other people. They edified and encouraged and blessed those they came in contact with. Only heaven knows the amount of good that the two of them did together during 67 years of marriage.

Betty’s life stands a testimony to the power of faith and perseverance, the power of trusting and obeying the Lord. Proverbs 10, verse 7 says “The memory of the righteous is a blessing.” I know that her memory will be a blessing to you for the rest of your lives.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Seminal Work about 19th-Century U.S. Women

Welter, Barbara. "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860." American Quarterly 18, no. 2, pt. 1 (Summer 1966): 151-74.

In 1963, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, a book often credited for its role in sparking 1960s and 70s "second-wave" feminism. Three years later, Barbara Welter, then a history professor at Hunter College in New York, published her still-influential article, "The Cult of True Womanhood: 1820-1860."

Writing in the same key as Friedan, Welter begins by asserting that the expression "True Womanhood" turned up constantly in popular books, magazines, and journals of the antebellum years. Significantly, writers almost never defined what they meant by that phrase. They could assume that readers already knew (151). Surveying the literature, Welter identifies "four cardinal attributes" of True Womanhood: piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity. These qualities meant everything. If a woman possessed them, even if she had nothing else, she was complete, admirable, and respectable. On the other hand, if she was deficient in these attributes, then even if well-educated, wealthy, and fashionably dressed, she could rightly be considered pitiful, even a danger to the common good. According to the literature, women were needed and expected to personify a unique sort of soft power that holds an otherwise chaotic world together (152).

In regard to the attribute of piety, Welter reports one journalist of the time who wrote that religion is "exactly what a woman needs, for it gives her that dignity that best suits her dependence."  The spirit of true religion, it was said, went hand in hand with the practical things that society needed women to do in behalf of their husbands and children (153). Conversely, wrote a journalist in 1840, "female irreligion is the most revealing feature in human character." It would be better for a woman to be physically dead than morally loose (154).

Regarding the capacities of women, one writer suggested that though female heads were just too small for intellect, they were just big enough for love. Consequently, the true spirit of femininity is "ever timid, doubtful, and clingingly dependent; a perpetual childhood" (160). Women should therefore accept submission as their lot (162). They should not attempt to save the outside world directly. Rather, they should initiate indirect reform by educating the minds and shaping the hearts of their children (163).

Though advice literature of the time insisted that marriage was best and proper, it also sought to remove the stigma of singleness. For example, some writers mentioned that it was preferable for a woman not marry than to marry out of selfish motives. It was perfectly respectable for some women to be "teachers of the young." Women could forgo or postpone marriage because of "fidelity to some high mission" (169). Nonetheless, marriage was preferable, especially for high-spirited young women. For them, marriage held the power to tame, "cure," and provide them with direction for their otherwise misguided lives (170). Marriage was also the source of women's highest authority. In marriage, a woman both influenced a man and became a mother, rising to "a higher place of being in the scale of being" (171).

The same popular press that consistently advanced True Womanhood also vilified women's rights advocates like Mary Wollstonecraft, Frances Wright, and Harriet Martineau. In reaction to the call for increased rights for women, advocates doubled down on their message that the ideal right and patriotic duty was for women to be keepers at home, to care for their husbands and their children, the coming generation of American citizens (173).

If women were kept at home and held back in this way, what changed? How, for example, did American women manage to gain the right to vote in the early twentieth century? Welter identifies several movements and events of the nineteenth century that combined to make the difference: "social reform, westward migration, missionary activity, utopian communities, industrialism, the Civil War." Precipitated by those factors, she writes, the transformation from True Womanhood to the New Woman of the late nineteenth century was "as startling in its way as the abolition of slavery or the coming of the machine age." Still, as Friedan's book revealed, the old standards and stereotypes managed to survive and make a comeback in American society (173-74).

Monday, December 28, 2015

Winter Storm Goliath Hits Tulia

So Michele, Ben, and I drove over to Altus, Oklahoma on Thursday, the 24th, so glad to see my folks, my sisters and their families. We had a good time with them, but by Saturday, the morning after Christmas, it was time for us to get home. A winter storm, "Goliath" they called it, was blowing in from the west. We needed to get home to the Texas panhandle before it started snowing.

The winds of West Texas were howling long before we made it to Tulia. But it didn't start snowing until sometime in the wee hours of Sunday morning. We got more snow Sunday night. I took these photos on Monday afternoon, the 28th.

South Bowie Avenue
Home Sweet Home
A Perfect Snow Drift

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Puritans: Proto-Liberals or Traditionalist Tyrants?

Hall, David D. A Reforming People: Puritanism and the Transformation of Public Life in New England. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011.

This is a different sort of book about Puritans. Instead of focusing on theology and religion, it looks at politics and government. It's also different in another regard: instead of asserting that Puritan government was authoritarian and anti-democratic, historian David D. Hall argues that so much of the Puritan political experiment actually ran in the opposite direction.

From the very beginning of A Reforming People, it's clear that Hall wants to stick up for the misunderstood and much-maligned Puritans. "The argument that runs through this book," he writes, "is plain enough: the people who founded the New England colonies in the early seventeenth century brought into being churches, civil governments, and a code of laws that collectively marked them as the most advanced reformers of the Anglo-colonial world" (xi).

Hall notes that during the 1620s and 30s, the search for a proper balance between liberty and order was a huge question in both England and New England. Along these lines, the big advances emerged in New England, not old England (4). Looking back on the Puritans of the seventeenth century, he explains, observers and historians have taken one of two opposing views. According to some, the Puritan impulse was essentially top-down and authoritarian. They suggest that the Salem witch trials should come as no surprise. According to others, the Puritan outlook was essentially democratic and anti-authoritarian. They point to the development of democratic ideology in nineteenth-century America. Hall argues that both of these common, popular views of New England Puritans are seriously flawed. No, they weren't proto-liberals. But neither were they unfeeling, authoritarian despots.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Race and Politics in Twentieth Century America

Gerstle, Gary. American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

This book explores the most important twentieth-century ideas about what it meant, and means, to be an American. Gary Gerstle sets out to provide a schema, a framework by which readers can understand and make sense of U.S. political, military, and social history during the 1900s.

Gerstle's thesis centers on a competition between what he calls civic nationalism versus racial nationalism. He uses the first phrase to refer to what has been called "the American Creed." That is to say, civic nationalism means American civic principles and rights. It is characterized by its disregard for racial and ethnic distinctions. Consider, for example, the very-American sounding statement, "Here in the U.S., it doesn't matter where you're from or what color you are, if obey the law and are willing to work hard, you'll eventually get ahead." That's an expression of what Gerstle is calling civic nationalism. By contrast, racial nationalism asserts that only people of a certain race and ethnic origin are qualified to lead in America and to enjoy all of the privileges granted by the U.S.

"In this book," says Gerstle, "I argue that the pursuit of these two powerful and contradictory ideals--the civic and the racial--has decisively shaped the history of the American nation in the twentieth century" (p. 5). But this is no liberal-versus-conservative telling of the story. The author says that his is "particularly interested in how liberals and their supporters wrestled with the contradictions between the two nationalist traditions" (6).

In short, Gerstle asserts and sets out to demonstrate that his deceptively simple model--civic nationalism versus racial nationalism--represents a powerful lens through which to look back on the history of the U.S. during the entire twentieth century.

The author acknowledges his dependence on Benedict Anderson's book, Imagined Communities, which, says Gerstle, explains that nations are "sociopolitical creations" and as such are "historically contingent." He also acknowledges the inspiration and direction that came to him through works by W.E.B. DuBois, Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880; Edmund S. Morgan, American Slavery, American Freedom; David Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness; Eric Foner, The Story of American Freedom; and Rogers M. Smith, Civic Ideals: Conflicting Visions of Citizenship in U.S. History (11-13).

In his "Introduction," Gerstle lays out both his thesis and his interpretation of America during the 1900s. He says that many, perhaps even most American liberals of the early twentieth century believed in "the superiority of a racialized melting pot." But they typically "did not think to include blacks, Hispanics, or Asians in their American crucible" (6). In fact, at that time many Americans with ancestral roots in northeastern Europe believed that even people from eastern and southern Europe would likely never become full-fledged Americans. On the other hand was what liberal Herbert Croly spoke of "the promise of American life," a vision that President Theodore Roosevelt, himself a racist of sorts, placed at the center of his progressivist vision (7).

Gerstle notes that the competition between these two visions of nationhood heated up during times of war. Later, the "Rooseveltian" nation fell apart during the 1960s as a result of the Civil Rights revolution (9). By 1970, "neither the civic nor racial traditions of American nationalism retained enough integrity to serve as rallying points for those who wished to put the nation back together" (10).

In his "Epilogue," which considers the last 25 years of the twentieth century, Gerstle looks back over the wreckage left from the 1960s and early 70s. He says that from 1975 to 2000, Americans identified two new possible and, again, competing directions for the nation: a commitment to multiculturalism versus a renewal of traditional pride in a unified America. He suggests that the presidency of Bill Clinton represented a third option, which drew, in certain ways, on both of those ideas.

I have to confess that as I read American Crucible, I kept waiting for the author to overplay his hand, or for his interpretive framework to break down. From my vantage point, neither of those happened in this book. So I consider Gerstle's thesis a good way of thinking about the history of politics and race in the U.S. during the twentieth century. And, as the grandson of people who immigrated to the U.S. from southern Italy in 1897, for me the insights of this book sometimes hit fairly close to home.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Frankie Valli and the Cult of the Saints

So, earlier today I was watching Dan Rather interview the great Frankie Valli. Of course, what stood out to me was something I was personally interested in. Rather asked about Valli's religion. He suspected that since Valli is an Italian-American "Jersey boy," he must have grown up Roman Catholic. Exactly right. Although nowadays, and apparently for a long time now, The singer has shown little devotion to the Church. He mentioned the worldliness of churches. It seemed to him that all of them were to one extent or another businesses.

Valli mentioned that during the years when he and his bandmates were struggling to make a name for themselves, he would often stop by St. Patrick's Cathedral and light a candle. But, again, since those days he's kept his distance from the Church and from religion in general.

Then, Valli said something that really struck me. There's one aspect of the religion of his youth that he still retains: the cult of the saints. No, he didn't use those words. But he did say that if he can't seem to find something he's looking for, he appeals to St. Anthony. He suggested that almost always, after calling on St. Anthony he soon finds whatever it is. Valli also mentioned his regard for St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes.

That one little bit of the interview made me realize, again, what a huge phenomenon the cult of the saints has been throughout the years of Christendom. Of course, I knew that so many cites, towns, counties, hospitals, colleges, days, etc., etc. were named for a particular saint. But until you start to explore this aspect of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, it's easy to overlook its significance through the centuries. In many ways, the cult of the saints is the single largest window on the history of Christianity during the Middle Ages. And, it's maintained its popularity right up to the present day.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Oriard, Michael. Brand NFL: Making and Selling America's Favorite Sport. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.

Hard to believe, it's but true. In years gone by, playing professional football was a job men did, not for as long as they could, but for as long as they had to. There were lots of better-paying jobs. But some men just couldn't get them. So they had to play football instead. Over the last fifty years, the Super Bowl has gone from being a televised championship game to being the centerpiece of an unofficial national holiday in the United States, a day on which Americans eat more than on any other day besides Thanksgiving. In Brand NFL: Making and Selling America's Favorite Sport, scholar Michael Oriard tells about the people who were a part of that remarkable transition: the players, coaches, commissioners, and team owners of the National Football League.

Oriard reveals, among other things, that professional football's great triumph in recent times was not inevitable. There were a number of unpredictable factors that combined to make the NFL what it is today. Most of all, he describes and attempts to wrap his mind around the incredible profitability of the NFL. He seems most interested in the sums of money that, as he puts it, "overwhelm comprehension," and the ways all those billions of dollars have changed the game (5).

Given his topic it comes as no surprise that Oriard's sources include major newspapers published in cities with an NFL franchise, the New York Times and the San Francisco Examiner, for example. He also cites magazines like Sports Illustrated and Esquire. But because he is interested in how mountains of money have impacted professional football, Oriard also consults periodicals like ForbesFinancial World, and Street & Smith's Sports-Business Journal. In addition to these sources, he sometimes cites his own personal experience as a standout college football player who went on to play a few seasons in the NFL, and who has followed the on- and off-field drama of the game ever since he hung up his cleats. 

For me, Oriard's observations based on his personal experience were some of the most interesting parts of the book. For example, he describes the early 1970s, when the Super Bowl "was still just a championship game with a huge television audience" but was far from what it has since become. To that, he adds this footnote: "As a Chief, I was entitled to buy two tickets to the game but did it only once, when a former teammate from Notre Dame called to ask if I could get him seats. The idea that I should buy my allotment every year, because they would be worth a fortune to someone somewhere, never crossed my mind" (55). Could anyone do a better job of illustrating the difference between then and now?

Oriard does more than report a mountain of information about the modern NFL. He uses his facts in order to piece together big puzzles that render some impressive portraits, maps of the past that are certainly interesting, and maybe even instructive. For example, the author relates the stories of the labor tension and players' strikes of the 1970s and 80s. He describes them in a way that underscores how these events were all part of the same great struggle, one that lasted from 1974 to 1993. He also paints portraits of two great NFL commissioners, Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue. Oriard suggests that although significantly different from one another, each one was the right man at the right time, and that the lengthy tenures of Rozelle and Tagliabue marked distinct periods of solid growth for professional football.

Highlights in this book for me include a section that tells the unlikely story of the origins and rise of NFL Films. Father and son Ed and Steve Sabol both loved football and movies. Combining their efforts and starting with next to nothing, they made some of the best football films ever produced. Oriard reveals that Steve understood both art and film-making, and that he incorporated his knowledge into the careful crafting of NFL Films. The point here is that these films, first produced in the 1960s, generated a tremendous amount of publicity for professional football. Many kids who grew up during that era remember the films when they were first aired on television, turning the sport into a national obsession.

I also appreciated how, in Chapter 6, "Football in Black and White," Oriard drives home the point that because the genetic make up of individuals is so very diverse and mixed, the social construct we call "race" is nowhere close to being a pure biological category. More than once he also points out that the supposedly-natural superiority of the black athlete can be a two-edged sword. Why? Because someone who asserts that the black person is more likely to be a physically-superior athlete might also suggest that that same black person is more likely to be intellectually inferior.

Overall, I learned a lot from this book and enjoyed reading it most of the time. There were points where the sheer volume of facts and figures was a bit too much. On the other hand, no one can accuse Oriard of playing loose with the facts. He likely has as good a handle on the details of professional football as anyone.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Reading List for Twentieth Century U.S. History

Okay, so here's my working list of titles for Twentieth Century U.S. History. I got my start on this project in a course I took at Texas Tech with Dr. Sean Cunningham, who is part of my committee for qualifying exams. The list has been a work in progress over the last six months or so. About 8 or 9 titles that also appear on my Religion list were deleted from this one because of the overlap. But from here, I don't think there will be many changes if any.

If I've posted something here at Frankly Speaking on one of these, I've added a link to that title. Sometimes at the end of an entry, I've included a few tags that identify some of the topics of that book.

I've tried to categorize the list, a project I thought might help me get an overall sense of what's here. So far, I've read or a least gotten into about 75% of these titles. Not knowing very much about the other 25% of the books made them harder to categorize. So I might be moving some of them around later. Trying to gain a good bit of mastery over this material should keep me busy for a while.

Background, Survey, General (7)

Kennedy, David M. Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Klein, Maury. The Genesis of Industrial America, 1870-1920. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Painter, Nell Irvin. Standing at Armageddon: The United States, 1877-1919. New York: W. W. Norton, 1987.

Patterson, James T. Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Patterson, James T. Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Sitkoff, Harvard, editor. Perspectives on Modern America: Making Sense in the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Wiebe, Robert. The Search for Order, 1877-1920. New York: Hill and Wang, 1966.

Cold War, esp. Cuban Missile Crisis (7)

Dudziak, Mary L. Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Imagery of American Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011. Politics. Society.

Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin, 2005. Cold War.

Kennedy, Robert F. Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Introductions by Robert S. McNamara and Harold Macmillan. New York: Norton, 1969. Cold War. Cuban Missile Crisis. JFK Administration. Politics.

Leffler, Melvyn P. The Specter of Communism: The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1917-1953. New York: Hill and Wang, 1994.

May, Elaine Tyler. Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era. New York: Basic Books, 1988. Cold War. Gender.

McNamara, Robert S. "The Military Role of Nuclear Weapons: Perceptions and Misperceptions," Foreign Affairs 62 (Fall 1983): 59-80. Cold War. Nuclear Weapons. Military Tactics.

Stern, Sheldon M. The Week the World Stood Still: Inside the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2005. Cold War. Cuban Missile Crisis. JFK Administration.

Culture and Mass Media (8)

Bailey, Beth L. From Front Porch to Back Seat: Courtship in Twentieth-Century America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988.

Berkowitz, Edward D. Mass Appeal: The Formative Age of the Movies, Radio, and TV. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Mass Media.

Boorstin, Daniel J. The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America. New York: Atheneum, 1987. Culture. Mass Media.

Culver, Lawrence. The Frontier of Leisure: Southern California and the Shaping of Modern America. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Denning, Michael. The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century. New York: Verso, 1996.

Fraterrigo, Elizabeth. Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Pells, Richard. Modernist America: Art, Music, Movies, and the Globalization of American Culture. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011. Culture.

Slotkin, Richard. Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.

Politics (13)

Badger, Anthony J. The New Deal: The Depression Years, 1933-40. New York: Hill and Wang, 1989. New Deal. Great Depression. FDR Administration.

Brands, H. W. The Strange Death of American Liberalism. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001. Politics. Liberalism. Vietnam War.

Cohen, Lizabeth, Making a New Deal: Industrial Workers in Chicago, 1919-1939. 2nd edition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Goldberg, Robert Alan. Barry Goldwater. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1995. Conservatism.

Kazin, Michael. The Populist Persuasion: An American History. Rev. ed. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.

McGirr, Lisa. Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Postel, Charles. The Populist Vision. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Rodgers, Daniel T., “In Search of Progressivism.” Reviews in American History 10, no. 4 (1982): 113-132.

Rossinow, Doug. The Politics of Authenticity: Liberalism, Christianity, and the New Left in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

Rymph, Catherine E. Republican Women: Feminism and Conservatism From Suffrage through the Rise of the New Right. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. Republican Party. Women.

Schrecker, Ellen. Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Boston: Little, Brown, 1998. Cold War. Senator Joseph P. McCarthy. Political Repression.

Self, Robert O. All in the Family: The Realignment of American Democracy since the 1960s. New York: Hill and Wang, 2012.

Wills, Garry. John Wayne's America: The Politics of Celebrity. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997. Rhetoric. Imagery. Mythology.

Presidents (9)

Brands, H. W. Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Class and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. New York: Doubleday, 2008. Politics. FDR. Great Depression.

Dallek, Robert. Lone Star Rising: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1908-1960. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. LBJ. Politics. Texas.

Dallek, Robert. An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963. Boston: Little, Brown, 2003. JFK. Politics.

Greenberg, David. Nixon's Shadow: The History of an Image. New York: Norton, 2003. Memory. Richard M. Nixon. Politics. Media.

Link, Arthur S. Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1954.

McCullough, David. Truman. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. Harry S. Truman.

Pietrusza, David. 1960: LBJ vs. JFK vs. Nixon: The Epic Campaign that Forged Three Presidencies. New York: Union Square, 2008.

Rauchway, Eric. Murdering McKinley: The Making of Theodore Roosevelt's America. New York: Hill and Wang, 2003.

Wills, Garry. The Kennedy Imprisonment: A Meditation on Power. Boston: Little, Brown, 1981. Politics. Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. Family. JFK.

Race and Civil Rights (10)

Boyle, Kevin. Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age. New York: Henry Holt, 2004. Race. U.S. Cities--Detroit. Law. 1920s.

Borstelmann, Thomas. The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Branch, Taylor. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988. Civil Rights. Martin Luther King, Jr. Religion--Black Church.

Brilliant, Mark. The Color of America Has Changed: How Racial Diversity Shaped Civil Rights Reform in California, 1941-1978. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Race. Civil Rights. California. Politics.

Hobbs, Allyson. A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014. Race. Society.

Gerstle, Gary. American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001. Race. Theodore Roosevelt Administration.

Gordon, Linda. The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Lambert, Valerie. Choctaw Nation: A Story of American Indian Resurgence. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007. American Indians. Oklahoma. Politics.

McLaurin, Melton. Separate Pasts: Growing Up White in the Segregated South. 2nd ed. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998. Race. American South.

Roediger, David. Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class. Rev. ed. London: Verso, 2007.

Sports (5)

Byrne, Julie. O God of Players: The Story of the Immaculata Mighty Macs. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003. Sports. Gender. Religion--Roman Catholicism.

Oriard, Michael. Brand NFL: Making and Selling America's Favorite Sport. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007. Sports. Professional Football. Society. Race.

Pope, S. W. "Sport History: Into the 21st Century." Journal of Sport History 25 (Summer 1998): i-x.

Sammons, Jeffrey T. "'Race' and Sport: A Critical, Historical Examination." Journal of Sport History 21 (Fall 1994): 203-78. Sports. Race.

Vecsey, George. Baseball: A History of America's Favorite Game. New York: Modern Library, 2008. Sports--Baseball.

U.S. South and West, esp. Texas (8)

Campbell, Randolph B. Gone to Texas: A History of the Lone Star State. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Texas. Politics.

Crisp, James E. Sleuthing the Alamo: Davy Crockett’s Last Stand and Other Mysteries of the Texas Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. Texas. Archival Research. Textual Criticism.

Cunningham, Sean P. American Politics in the Postwar Sunbelt: Conservative Growth in a Battleground Region. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great America Dust Bowl. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Dust Bowl. Social History.

Foley, Neil. The White Scourge: Mexicans, Blacks, and Poor Whites in Texas Cotton Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Phillips, Michael. White Metropolis: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion in Dallas, 1841-2001. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2006.

White, Richard. "It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own": A New History of the American West. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993.

Worster, Donald. Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Vietnam War (8)

Berman, Larry. Perfect Spy: The Incredible Double Life of Pham Xuan An, Time Magazine Reporter and Vietnamese Communist Agent. HarperCollins/Smithsonian, 2007. Vietnam War. Espionage. News Media.

Bilton, Michael and Kevin Sim. Four Hours in My Lai. New York: Viking, 1992. Vietnam War. Military. Law.

Hammond, William M. Reporting Vietnam: Media and Military at War. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1998. Vietnam War. News Media. Society.

Milam, Ron. Not a Gentleman's War: An Inside View of Junior Officers in the Vietnam War. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009. Vietnam War. Military.

Moyar, Mark. Triumph Forsaken: The Vietnam War, 1954-1965. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Vietnam War--Revisionist Interpretation. Politics.

O'Brien, Tim. If I Die in a Combat Zone. 1975. Reprint edition. New York: Broadway Books, 1999. Vietnam War--Memoir/Novel.

Sheehan, Neil. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam. New York: Vintage, 1989. Vietnam War. Military. News Media.

Vuic, Kara Dixon. Officer, Nurse, Woman: The Army Nurse Corps in the Vietnam War. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010. Women. Gender. Vietnam War.

World Wars I and II, Holocaust (5)

Adler, Selig. "The United States and the Holocaust." American Jewish Historical Quarterly 64 (September 1974): 14-23. Holocaust. World War II. Religion--Judaism.

Dower, John W. War without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War. New York: Pantheon, 1986. World War II. Pacific Theater. Japan. Race.

Miscamble, Wilson D. The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011. World War II. Pacific Theater. Truman Administration.

Wyman, David S. The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941-1945. New York: Pantheon, 1984.

Zieger, Robert. America's Great War: World War I and the American Experience. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.

1960s (3)

Anderson, Terry H. The Movement and the Sixties: Protest in America from Greensboro to Wounded Knee. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Flamm, Michael W. Law and Order: Street Crime, Civil Unrest, and the Crisis of Liberalism in the 1960s. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

Isserman, Maurice and Michael Kazin. America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Stories from the Real Mayberry

McLaurin, Melton. Separate Pasts: Growing Up White in the Segregated South. 2nd edition. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1998.

This memoir recounts what life was like for a white kid growing up during the 1950s in Wade, North Carolina, a racially-mixed small town. Melton McLaurin, the son of a respected family in the community, learned his lessons about racism and segregation like anyone else would--through day-to-day norms and specific incidents when boundaries were reinforced and tested. The historical value of the book centers on McLaurin's claim that things were essentially the same in most every other small town in the South during that time. He prefers to reveal the world he grew up in through some unforgettable characters and the stories he remembers about them. His chapters have titles like "Betty Jo," and "Sam."

When he wrote this book, McLaurin was a professor and chair of the department of history at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. So it's no surprise that he often wants to provide a bit of historical context for the stories he relates. But he never overdoes it, never turns his memoir into something like a history lecture. From beginning to end, the book remains his story of struggling to make sense of what was happening in the cloudy world of his adolescence in the pre-Civil Rights South. He neither accuses nor absolves members of his own family. Instead, he describes them and everyone else in his hometown as people of their time. Fewer and fewer Americans today have a personal past that reaches back as far as the 1950s. It was a separate past, one we should remember and learn from.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

St. Clare's Preternatural Pebble Pick

Reading the processus document for Saint Clare of Assisi, I happened upon one of the more interesting miracle stories I've ever read. According to one witness, a nun who had lived in the same monastery with Clare for many years, "a young boy of the city of Spoleto, Mattiolo, three or four years old, had put a small pebble up one of the nostrils of his nose, so it could in no way be extricated. The young boy seemed to be in danger. After he was brought to Saint Clare and she made the sign of the cross over him, that pebble immediately fell from his nose. The young boy was cured."

The Lady: Clare of Assisi: Early Documents, edited and translated by Regis J. Armstrong (New York: New City Press, 2006), 154.