Unto a Good Land: A History of the American People

Unto a Good Land: A History of the American People

Unto a Good Land: A History of the American People

Unto a Good Land: A History of the American People

Synopsis

"Unto a Good Land offers a distinctive narrative history of the American people -- from the first contacts between Europeans and North America's native inhabitants, through the creation of a modern nation, to the standing of the United States as a world power. Written by a team of distinguished historians led by David Edwin Harrell, Jr. and Edwin S. Gaustad, this textbook shows how grasping the uniqueness of the "American experiment" depends on understanding the role of religion as well as social, cultural, political, and economic factors in shaping U.S. history.A common shortcoming of most United States history textbooks is that while, in recent decades, they have expanded their coverage of social and cultural history, they still tend to shortchange the role of religious ideas, practices, and movements in the American past. "Unto a Good Land addresses this shortcoming in a balanced way. The authors recognize that religion is only one of many factors that have influenced our past -- one, however, that has often been neglected in textbook accounts. This volume gives religion its appropriate place in the story."Unprecedented coverage of the forces that have shaped the history of the United States While none of America's rich history is left out, this volume is the first U.S. history textbook to give serious attention to the religious dimension of American life. This textbook is not a religious history; instead, it offers an account of American history that includes religious ideas, practices, and movements whenever they played a shaping role."Comprehensive and current This volume traces the American story from the earliest encounters between the first North Americaninhabitants and Europeans through the 2004 presidential election. Complete and balanced treatment is also given to issues of gender, race, and ethnicity, as well as cultural, political, and economic forces."A clear and compelling narrative The authors are more than expert historians; they are also talented writers who recognize history to be the retelling of human life. United by a seamless narrative structure, these chapters restore the bstoryb to history."Multiple formats specially designed for flexible classroom use "Unto a Good Land is available as a single hardcover edition or as two paperback volumes, offering maximum flexibility when adapting curriculum for one- and two-semester courses in U.S. history. The two paperback volumes can be used for U.S. history survey courses divided at 1865 or 1900 -- or at any date in between."Informative special features to complement the text In addition to the book's exceptional narrative, an array of special features enhances the instructional value of the text and points students to resources for further study."Includes assistance for teaching and test preparation The instructor's manual for "Unto a Good Land provides helpful suggestions for lesson plans and assignments, and the test bank provides multiple-choice and essay questions for use as study aids, quizzes, or tests."Suitable for instruction at both secular and religious colleges and universities Drawing on their experience in both secular and religious schools, the authors have ensured that this textbook is suitable for U.S. history classes in a wide variety of settings.

Excerpt

History need not be left to the “e a historian records “everything that happened.” Rather, each selects those events that have special significance or meaning, often arranging the happenings discussed in such a way as to emphasize what was truly important and why.

The task of the historian, in addition to selecting those events that have special significance, and arranging them in some sort of coherent pattern, is to convince readers that the story is not only for them but also about them. For Americans, the study of American history should have a special appeal; the story really is about you, just as surely as exploration of your own family background is another, if somewhat narrower, way of learning more about yourself.

In another sense, though, the study of history can help you to get outside of yourself, to enlarge your experience and escape the limitations of a given moment of time and spot in space. Patrick Henry said that the only light that guided his steps was the “lamp of experience.” To some degree, that is true for us all, so that it makes much sense to broaden that experience as widely as possible. We do this by absorbing into ourselves the activities and aspirations of countless women and men who have preceded us. Their experiences become our own — if we allow them to.

Like the diarist, historians choose and select according to what they regard as most significant, what catches their interest and holds their attention. No two stories of the American past will be exactly the same, just as no two diary-keepers, even though they may describe the very same day in the very same town or school, will record the identical events in identical terms. the interests and background of each writer ensure the difference, thereby saving future historians from the horror of reading a hundred diaries with identical tales.

It is true, of course, that American history textbooks will share many items in common. None will omit the story of colonization, an account of the American Revolution, the development of the Constitution, westward expansion, the tragedy of slavery, the waves of immigration, economic struggles, military alliances, political quarrels, and so on. But all of this will be discussed within a pattern, and we will give particular attention to certain themes.

The most distinctive theme in Unto a Good Land — an attention to the persistence of religious faith in America — calls for more than a casual explanation. Most modern Americans know that religious zeal, mingled to be sure with less lofty motives, spurred on many of the early Europeans who explored the New World, where they encountered but generally did not appreciate the religious understandings of Native Americans. Most moderns also recognize that faith gave coherence to the earliest English families that settled New England, and that it later animated the clashes of the Scopes Trial. But faith has been a strong force throughout U.S. history, and as numerous recent events have made clear, the United States remains a bastion of religious beliefs. Various surveys point to the overwhelm-

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