Friday, December 20, 2013

Is There a Lack of Scholarship on the American Enlightenment?

Eric Herschtal, in his review of James MacGregor Burns's Fire and Light: How the Enlightenment Transformed Our World, laments the lack of "good recent scholarship" on the Enlightenment "that American historians can readily incorporate into their work."

I respectfully disagree.  Although there have not been many general overviews of the Enlightenment in America since the publication of Henry May's The Enlightenment in America, the last two decades have seen some excellent reassessments of the Enlightenment in America.  Here are some:

Ned Landsman, From Colonials to Provincials: American Thought and Culture, 1680-1760.  This is in the most accessible treatment of the Enlightenment in America I have ever read and I am not just saying this because Ned was my doctoral adviser.

Robert Ferguson, The American Enlightenment, 1750-1820.  Another very accessible survey.

Richard D. Brown, Knowledge is Power: The Diffusion of Information in Early America

Nina Reid Maroney, Philadelphia's Enlightenment, 1740-1800: Kingdom of Christ, Empire of Reason.

Mark A. Noll, Princeton and the Republic, 1767-1822: The Search for a Christian Enlightenment in the Era of Samuel Stanhope Smith

Alan Houston, Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement

The essays in Richard Sher and Jeffrey Smitten, ed., Scotland and America in the Age of the Enlightenment

James Delbourgo, A Most Amazing Scene of Wonders: Electricity and Enlightenment in Early Amercia.  (Herschtal does mention this book).

Richard Bushman, The Refinement of America.  Most would not say this is a book about the Enlightenment.  Though Bushman never uses the "E" word, I think this book is all about the social world of the Enlightenment.

Michael Winship, Seers of God: Puritan Providentialism in the Restoration and Early Enlightenment

Douglas Anderson, The Radical Enlightenments of Benjamin Franklin

Jose Torre, Enlightenment in America, 1720-1825

David Jaffee, "The Village Enlightenment in New England," 1760-1820," William and Mary Quarterly (July 1990), 327-346

Steven Bullock, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730-1840

John Corrigan, The Prism of Piety: The Catholick Congregational Clergy at the Beginning of the Enlightenment

Mark Spencer, David Hume and Eighteenth-Century America

And dare I add, John Fea, The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America.