Monday, August 2, 2021

"Providence and the Invention of American History"

New from Yale University Press: Providence and the Invention of American History by Sarah Koenig.

About the book, from the publisher:

How providential history—the conviction that God is an active agent in human history—has shaped the American historical imagination

In 1847, Protestant missionary Marcus Whitman was killed after a disastrous eleven-year effort to evangelize the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest. By 1897, Whitman was a national hero, celebrated in textbooks, monuments, and historical scholarship as the “Savior of Oregon.” But his fame was based on a tall tale—one that was about to be exposed.

Sarah Koenig traces the rise and fall of Protestant missionary Marcus Whitman’s legend, revealing two patterns in the development of American history. On the one hand is providential history, marked by the conviction that God is an active agent in human history and that historical work can reveal patterns of divine will. On the other hand is objective history, which arose from the efforts of Catholics and other racial and religious outsiders to resist providentialists’ pejorative descriptions of non-Protestants and nonwhites. Koenig examines how these competing visions continue to shape understandings of the American past and the nature of historical truth.
--Marshal Zeringue