The legacy of Leonard Arrington is familiar to anyone who studies Mormon history. Author of the classic monograph Great Basin Kingdom, Arrington was the known as the founder of the New Mormon History movement as well as the first academic to be appointed the official historian for the LDS Church. His decade-long tenure in the Church Office Building, affectionally heralded as “Camelot” in Mormon history circles, was known for its attempts at archival access and prodigious publishing. He is also known as a martyr figure due to a series of clashes with ecclesiastical leaders that led to his quiet dismissal and reassignment to BYU. There are few more significant figures in the development of academic Mormon history than this short and jovial professor born in Twin Falls, Idaho. Read More
Historians of early Mormonism have long noted the connection between Joseph Smith and a contemporary restorationist, Alexander Campbell. Both lived in antebellum America, both sought to restore a primitive form of Christianity, and both based their religion on (what they believed to be) a literalistic interpretation of the Bible. And unlike other theological figures sometimes theologically linked to Smith, Campbell actually encountered Mormonism and had a lot to say about the faith: many of the first LDS converts came from congregations loosely affiliated with Campbell’s movement, and Campbell wrote one of the first anti-Mormon books attacking Smith’s new scriptures. The two religious leaders not only had some intellectual similarities, but they also were fighting over the same circles of believers. Read More
For those interested, I was interviewed by William Black for the website “Meaning of Life.” The discussion touched on modern Mormonism, the transition of LDS leadership, and other topics related to the modern Mormon tradition. You can find their website here, and I’ve embedded the video below.
The Broadway musical Hamilton did a lot for the protagonist Alexander Hamilton, but little for his nemesis Aaron Burr. Despite the valiant effort of historians like Nancy Isenberg, the victor of the 1804 duel was now seen as the villain of one of America’s greatest rivalries. But what’s fascinating is that one of the most intriguing elements of an overall intriguing life took place in the years immediately following that storied morning at Weehawken: rumors quickly spread that Burr was canvassing the nation’s westward territory, possibly plotting an insurrection or even the establishment of a new empire. Now that would be a great plot for the theater. Read More
Things have been quiet around here as the last few weeks have been a blur. But now that the semester has commenced I hope to return to a more standard schedule, including my Wednesday book reviews.
I’m excited for the Spring semester to finally start, although it was postponed again this week as a surprise freeze gripped the region. For those interested, here are the three classes I’m teaching this semester. As you can tell, I’m all Revolution, all the time. The Hamilton musical is coming to Houston in a few months, so I’m taking advantage of the cultural excitement that comes with it. (The titles link to the syllabus for the course.)
- The Age of Hamilton: This is an honors seminar with students across the disciplines.
- The Era of the American Revolution, 1763-789: This is an upper-division course for history majors, and it is also framed around the Hamilton play.
- Revolutionary America: This is a graduate course taught on-campus for our master’s degree students.
And by the way, in case you missed the news, my book is out! I’ll have more info next week.