Lapidus-Omohundro Early American Print Culture Fellowship 2015-2016

The Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture awards up to
four fellowships to support advanced graduate student research related to Early American and transatlantic print culture, including authorship, production, circulation, and reception. I am grateful to hold a fellowship for 2015-2016.

For a list of fellowship recipients, see:
http://oieahc.wm.edu/fellowship/predoc/lapidus/recipients.html

My fellowship proposal:

Reading the Evangelical Atlantic:
Communication networks and religious culture in Cornwallis Township, Nova Scotia,
1770-1850

The history of religion has taken an ‘Atlantic turn.’ By documenting religious communication networks, historians have described several aspects of a Protestant Atlantic world, whether a Puritan version of the republic of letters, the globe-circling migrations of Moravians, or the religious public sphere created by evangelical itinerants. What, then, were the ideas that circulated in the networks of this evangelical Atlantic, and how were they received and adapted in local religious cultures? My doctoral thesis focuses on the communication networks, reading practices, and religious culture of evangelicals in Cornwallis Township, a community of New England Planters in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, ca. 1770-1850.

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 11.28.20 AMThough in many ways on the colonial periphery, Cornwallis Township was connected to a wider religious world through the communication networks of evangelical print culture. A rich set of archival sources enables a microhistory of religious print (from the perspective of readers) at a revolutionary moment in reading, religion, and politics. Cornwallis evangelicals used print to negotiate complex religious changes, from the radicalism of the Revolutionary-era New Light Stir through the reforming impulse of the Second Great Awakening. Nova Scotia offers a unique vantage point, for readers there were vigorous participants in American culture, but from within a British polity and transatlantic religious networks.

Rather than telling the story from the perspective of publishers or tract agencies, my study begins with a community of readers, to expose the lived experience of the networks of print from one particular node. Two readers give a sense of how people in one community navigated religious changes and shifting networks in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Handley Chipman (1717-1799), a cabinetmaker and justice of the peace, used texts to explore the limits of New Light Congregationalism. He created distinctive manuscript books by copying scripture and Puritan commentary as a meditative practice. He kept an inventory of an early community library of theology and history. Most famously (and in some ways, curiously), Chipman copied and circulated the unpublished journal of New Light evangelist, Henry Alline (1748-1784), whose printed works and itinerancy had an influence throughout New England and the Maritimes.

Edward Manning (1766-1851) used print to negotiate the religious changes of the Second Great Awakening. Manning, a self-educated Baptist minister and daily diarist, was a voracious reader of newly abundant religious periodicals and missionary memoirs, locating his provincial township in an expansive spiritual geography that included dissenting England, temperance New York, and missionary Burma. Manning had colporteur-like arrangements with authors and publishers in Rhode Island, Boston, and Prince Edward Island, and book distribution was an integral aspect of his extensive correspondence and itinerancy networks. An intensely emotional reader, Manning combined traditional reading habits with new religious genres.

This project will explore how Cornwallis readers like Chipman and Manning actively participated in the circulation of texts and ideas in their overlapping Atlantic, American, and British networks, and how they did so during a time of complex religious changes.

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