American Religious History
Belief and Society through Time
by Gary Scott Smith, Editor
December 2020, 1150pp, 8 1/2x11
3 volumes, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-6160-4
$335, £249, 289€, A453
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-6161-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

While Christian convictions motivated many Europeans to migrate to colonial America, a contentious debate rages over to what extent the United States was founded on Christian principles.

A mix of thematic essays, reference entries, and primary source documents covering the role of religion in American history and life from the colonial era to the present.

Often controversial, religion has been an important force in shaping American culture. Religious convictions strongly influenced colonial and state governments as well as the United States as a new republic. Religious teachings, values, and practices deeply affected political structures and policies, economic ideology and practice, educational institutions and instruction, social norms and customs, marriage, and family life. By analyzing religion’s interaction with American culture and prominent religious leaders and ideologies, this reference helps readers to better understand many fascinating, often controversial, religious leaders, ideas, events, and topics.

The work is organized in three volumes devoted to particular periods. Volume one includes a chronology highlighting key events related to religion in American history and an introduction that overviews religion in America during the period covered by the volume, and roughly 10 essays that explore significant themes. These essays are followed by approximately 120 alphabetically arranged reference entries providing objective, fundamental information about topics related to religion in America. Each volume presents nearly 50 primary source documents, each introduced by a contextualizing headnote. A selected, general bibliography closes volume three.


  • Timelines in each volume highlight key events in American religious history
  • Some 30 essays survey broad themes central to American religious history
  • Roughly 360 reference entries provide fundamental information about specific topics related to religion in American history
  • Excerpts from around 150 primary source documents provide first-hand accounts of how religion has shaped American history
  • Entry bibliographies and a selected, general, end-of-work bibliography direct users to additional information resources
Gary Scott Smith is professor of history emeritus at Grove City College. Smith received Grove City College's inaugural Professor of the Year award in 2000, and the next year he was named Pennsylvania Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. He is author or editor of 15 books including The Oxford Handbook of Presbyterianism (2019), A History of Christianity in Pittsburgh (2019), Religion in the Oval Office: The Religious Lives of American Presidents (2015), and Heaven in the American Imagination (2011).
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