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A Shopkeeper's Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York, 1815-1837

3.59  ·  Rating Details  ·  330 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
A quarter-century after its first publication, A Shopkeeper's Millennium remains a landmark work--brilliant both as a new interpretation of the intimate connections among politics, economy, and religion during the Second Great Awakening, and as a surprising portrait of a rapidly growing frontier city. The religious revival that transformed America in the 1820s, making it t ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published June 21st 2004 by Hill and Wang (first published 1978)
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A fascinating, subtle, and immensely valuable study, but I have some important reservations from the author's conclusions. To explain, I shall have to write at length.

In A Shopkeeper's Millennium, Paul Johnson argues that American revivalism in the early nineteenth century was a product of class conflict, not (as often assumed) individual social insecurity. Evangelicalism, according to Johnson, was not primarily a means for the mobile economic individualist to find meaning in life; it was instea
Joseph Stieb
Oct 24, 2014 Joseph Stieb rated it really liked it
This is a heck of a book even if I can't necessarily recommend it to everyone. Not everyone is going to read about revivals in Rochester, NY, but it's really fascinating case study of the social roots of Great Awakening in a specific city. It's also a great use of structural functionalist perspective in history. Johnson isn't really that concerned with the religious views of Rochester's citizens. Rather, he looks at the function of religion in society and in class relations. His basic argument i ...more
Oct 25, 2014 Joshua rated it really liked it
Paul E. Johnson’s focused monograph, A Shopkeeper’s Millennium: Society and Revivals in Rochester, New York 1815-1837, tries to broadly outline some intensifiers of the Second Great Awakening in the United States—a religious revival movement that reached its apex during the 1820s and 1830s. Johnson uses Rochester as a case study to explore the success of Charles Finney’s 1831 revivals, not because it was representative of the United States but because it’s religious fervency was exceptional. Joh ...more
Dan Gorman
Jan 19, 2014 Dan Gorman rated it liked it
Johnson was part of the social history movement in the 1970s - historians thought they could use statistics, demography, and early computer technology to finally achieve truly objective history, and the profession focused on matters of politics, business, labor, population trends, etc. Johnson uses all kinds of statistical data to support his narrative of Rochester politics and religion, anti-Masonic scheming, and finally the revival of Charles Finney in Rochester. However, his data is very sele ...more
Jul 25, 2011 Karen rated it really liked it
Interesting and useful case study of Rochester, NY on the link between changing social structures of the middle and working classes as influenced by the 2nd Great Awakening, temperance movement, and the rise of the market/capitalist system. Not the most gripping of narratives.
Ivy Au
Jan 30, 2016 Ivy Au rated it liked it
Johnson gives a detailed account about Rochester and its society and values, and why it had to change under the Second Great Awakening. Johnson is not straight forward in his account and constantly repeats themes in an overdone matter, while the audience is already well-acquainted with the given information. For example, "drinking" and variations on that terminology is used excessively in this account as well as the idea of a family-based society. I love how the book included maps; it really hel ...more
Jun 17, 2015 Erica added it
Shelves: alcohol
Excellent, a landmark in several fields: 1820s/30s evangelical revivalism, American capitalism and class formation, temperance activity, indoctrination into a bourgeois democratic worldview. Johnson argues that revivalism/increased evangelical church attendance in the Jacksonian era was more about proving one's self to one's boss than anything else--overturning (or really just making more complex) previous arguments that revivalism was a simple response to "increased anomie" felt by individuals' ...more
Apr 23, 2014 Chad rated it liked it
Read for a history class in school. It was pretty interesting, I never realized that temperance movements had happened so many times in this country, or that the one in the 1820s was so bound up with religious revival.
Interesting study of the Second Great Awakening in New York.
Nov 06, 2010 Jamie rated it did not like it
I'm not a fan of this book, though it is decent. I'm expected to write a paper based on this, perhaps that plays a role in my unlikeliness of it. Nevertheless, I find the book a bit dry and at some point confusing. My TA, who's a grad history student, loves this book and claims that this is the type of book he reads for his classes. Thus, I guess it just really depends in one's book preference, maybe even historical aspect preference.
Mar 21, 2016 Cheryl rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Just started reading this for my History Class at Brockport, Rochester Reform Trail (

Interesting prospective on the role a minister named Charles Finney played in Rochester, NY's becoming the hub of both the Abolitionist and Women's Rights Movements.
Jacob Thornburg
Mar 01, 2015 Jacob Thornburg rated it really liked it
It was good. I am not unhappy about having read it. I may read it again.
Sep 21, 2012 Gunnar rated it liked it
Interesting examination of the city of Rochester from a trendy '70s quasi-Marxist perspective. Johnson contends that the Second Great Awakening religious revival in the emerging Rochester bourgeoisie helped birth the antebellum Industrial Revolution and strengthen the divide between Northern owners and workers.
Jul 27, 2016 Michelle is currently reading it
It's a history book--one I bought for a class I ended up dropping. Some of it is dry, but the conclusions he draws along the way are interesting. So far, the book focuses on what led to the Second Great Awakening in one burgeoning city that Charles Finney visited.
Jan 16, 2013 John rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
Solid academic book. Learned some new things about religion and society in upstate New York. As with most academic writing, the interesting bits come after he's come to his conclusions and he lets himself speculate a bit about the role of religion as a social control.
Alina Scott
Nov 19, 2014 Alina Scott rated it it was amazing
I loved it! Johnson gave an interesting perspective to the second great awakening. I normally do not appreciate historical books of this nature, but it was wonderfully written and informative. I would definitely recommend this book!
Mar 05, 2008 Laurie rated it really liked it
Shelves: american, history
The new social history at its best. But would it have killed Johnson to give some credit to the women, especially since they outnumbered/converted the men?
Mar 10, 2013 Samantha rated it liked it
It was a good informational book, but I have to say I found it quite boring.
Dec 19, 2007 Kristen rated it it was amazing
Beautiful story of how money and church are intermingled.
Richard Berman
Aug 06, 2009 Richard Berman is currently reading it
Very refreshing story. Great characters and plot.
Brentley Campbell
Dec 31, 2012 Brentley Campbell rated it liked it
Read some bits and pieces for class. A solid read
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