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Preface Letter
Table of Contents
Chapter 4
From Plantations to Provinces: The Evolution of American Society and Culture, 1660–1763
Chapter 11
The Old South
Chapter 15
“This Mighty Scourge”: The Civil War Years
Chapter 20
Post-Civil War Thought and Culture
Chapter 26
An Exhilarating Decade: American Life in the 1920s
Chapter 30
In the Shadow of the Bomb: The Cold War in the Truman Years

Dear Colleagues:

Early in the decade of the 1990s, I wrote a brief note to my friend Ed Gaustad, one of the nation's most distinguished and widely published scholars of colonial American religion, noting that religion is consistently overlooked in United States history textbooks. I suggested that the two of us write a textbook that would give needed attention to the role of religious groups and ideas in United States history, as other writers had quite properly called attention to the stories of women, African Americans, and other long-neglected groups. We soon enlisted four of our friends and fellow historians to complete some of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century chapters. Randall M. Miller, John B. Boles, Sally Foreman Griffith, and Randall B. Woods brought stellar reputations and skills to the project.

Unto a Good Land: A History of the American People is a standard American history textbook. It is not a religious history of the United States. As this sample chapter on the 1920s illustrates, you will find here all of the expected topics — high Republican politics, welfare capitalism and labor unions, flappers and the “lost generation,” Marcus Garvey and Alice Paul, Albert Einstein and Max Planck. But you will also find a balanced view of the development of religious institutions and ideas during these years.

Too often, the enduring persistence of religious belief in the United States has been underestimated. When religion does rise to the attention of all Americans (for instance, during the “Year of the Evangelicals” election of 1976 and the ascendancy of “moral values” in the election of 2004), many observers seem genuinely surprised and befuddled by religious “resurgences.” The influence of religious ideas on public policy has indeed ebbed and flowed throughout the nation's history, but it has never been far from the surface. The deep imprint of faith is a part of the American story. We believe students of American history should not be caught unawares when religious values take center stage.

To be sure, religious belief has not always had a wholesome effect on the nation. No student of American history should ignore the recurrent use of religious rhetoric to advance narrow and sometimes selfish nationalistic goals. This book is not written to praise or condemn the presence of faith in America, but simply to describe it along with the other features of United States history. We aim to broaden the stage by including religious beliefs and values in the American narrative, and, by doing so, to tell the whole story of the diverse millions of Americans who are bound “unto a good land.”

David Edwin Harrell, Jr.