The United States is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world, and that religiousness has a particular, fascinating, sometimes violent history — which too often goes unexamined in US history courses. This class offers a corrective by considering aspects of US history through the lens of American religion, with an emphasis on the history of religious pluralism: from convent to temple to the court to the contentious public square, from television to the internet to the halls of Congress. You’ll be introduced to a variety of religious perspectives, peoples, and denominations in America’s past and present, as well as to a variety of scholarly approaches to religious studies. At the end of the course you will not only be familiar with a wider range of belief systems found in our community and nation, but you will be able to better understand why America is so uniquely pluralist in its religious landscapes.

The course is designed as an upper-level seminar for students with prior history background, so some knowledge of the basic outlines of US history is presumed. That said, it is intended to to be challenging even for advanced students, with a very demanding reading load and a strong emphasis on writing and seminar-style discussion. You will conduct one small-scale fieldwork / local history project and write a well-conceived original research paper, in addition to smaller writing assignments and written exams. If you want a refresher on US history or assistance with writing, please be proactive in seeking out the university’s resources in these areas, including my office hours, the Writing Center, library reference desk or history tutoring services as appropriate.

Past Syllabi: 2009, 2012, 2016

Prerequisites: HI 111 and HI 112, also English EN 102 or 202.

LASC Categories: DAC, WAC, and either TLC or USW

Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to …

  • Craft a robust working definition of religion
  • Explain the development of the distinctive American religious experience
  • Increase your individual religious and historical literacy; hone your moral, ethical and historical thinking
  • Document local and national religious landscapes
  • Demonstrate the ability to interpret cultural texts