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A Religious History of the American People

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  180 ratings  ·  25 reviews
This classic work, winner of the 1973 National Book Award in Philosophy and Religion and Christian Century’s choice as the Religious Book of the Decade (1979), is now issued with a new chapter by noted religious historian David Hall, who carries the story of American religious history forward to the present day.
Paperback, Second Edition, 1216 pages
Published July 11th 2004 by Yale University Press (first published 1972)
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Erik Graff
Dec 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of American religious history
Recommended to Erik by: David Lotz
Shelves: religion
I picked this up at the excellent Union Theological Seminary bookstore while still studying there during the seventies, inspired by the sequence of Church History courses required for the M.Div., courses which did not include the course on American Church History. Ahlstrom's was the text for that class.

Over a decade later I finally get down to reading the thing and regret not having done so earlier. Ahlstrom's review is fascinating, particularly to someone who knows their North American history
Jul 29, 2008 rated it liked it
Anthroposophists? Check. Encyclicals from the Pope? Double check. The church and 1900s-era immigration? Step right up.

Unfortunately I read only the 1975 edition of Volume Two, but fortunately I still found it to be engaging and relevant. In this comprehensive study, Ahlstrom (mostly chronologically) covers the development of American religious life from the Transcendentalism of Emerson to the social overhaul of the 1960s. While he occasionally gets bogged down detailing denominational shifts and
Jan 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
The gold standard for works of its kind, but a Yale historian. Even 30-odd years later, it makes its successors (Gaustaud and Noll's wonderful texts) seem superfluous. Massive in size and scope, it deals with social, political and intellectual issues masterfully. Very clear and accessible, while creative and brilliant.
Apr 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: religion nerds
Shelves: religion
A Religious History of the American People will probably be on my "currently reading" list for about a million years. That's how big and heavy and long this book is. It's a classic, though, so if you're interested in American religious history (I am), then you should read it.
Nov 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: religion
Mistitled, as it basically addresses only JudeoChristian (emphasis on Christian) faith. Still, great, balanced reference for Christian US History.
Eric Lazarian
Jul 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
From my 2008 Amazon Review:

The finest single volume work on American religious history December 18, 2003 By Eric Lazarian "New England Calvinist" I cannot praise this work enough. The time invested in reading this book has been well worth it. It has not yet been surpassed in scope or excellence. The work is well-balanced and covers all of the major movements and some of the minor movements in American religious history. The Puritans are dealt with fairly, as are other Protestant and non-Protesta
Sep 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Public schools and universities seem to dilute American history of much of its religious content. The former for over-reading the establishment clause and the latter for a (religous) desire to see the world through economic and social constructs. You can fill the holes left in your history education by allowing Ahlstrom to guide you through American history as he traces the people as they saw themselves - as a predominantly religious society of many flavors living out their interpretation of the ...more
Dec 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Although it's getting some age on it, this is the finest treatment of the history of religion in America that I've seen. A professor years ago told me it was one of the best church history text he'd ever discovered, and I couldn't agree more. It's the kind of book you read once and mark up on every page. Then you go back and read it again marking things you didn't mark the first time. I finally had to purchase a second copy. Don't be intimidated by its massive size. You can read it selectively.
Aug 18, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: for-school
Yes, it's a classic, but I found it a bit dull, for all of that. That may have a lot to do with having speed-read this for comprehensive exams.
Jul 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Amazing: religious history that begins in 1492!
Jan 01, 2018 rated it liked it
An older, standard history of American religion. Flawed, but still valuable for understanding the shape of my discipline in the 1960s and 1970s.
Joel Zartman
Feb 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An amazing resource. How can anybody be interesting for over 1100 pages?
Jeremy Canipe
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Sydney E. Ahlstrom was a professor of American religious history at Yale University. Originally published in 1972, A Religious History of the American People is a detailed and expansive history of religious faith in the United States. The book was highly acclaimed, with much reason. I highly recommend this book.

The book is over 1,000 pages in length. As such, I read the book slowly over several weeks, taking occasional breaks. I will provide a brief overview here. I expect to use the book again
Michael McCue
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good, extremely complete history covering every denomination, sect, cult and movement in two vol. Read it while a student at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley CA. My advisor, Dr. Samuel Garrett recommended it.
Nancy Devlin
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Required textbook for masters in theology class. Just used it as reference.
Kye Alfred Hillig
Sep 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing
First it must be said that Ahlstrom seems to leave no stone unturned within this all-inclusive history of religion in America. The amount of research and effort it must have taken to compile this work must have been enough to drive anyone mad. My struggle with this work is that it's far too academic for its own good. It's not an accessible work. And what's the point of writing an exclusively academic work for other academics who already know this shit? It's pointless. Why not make it more readab ...more
Jan 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Ahlstrom was a professor at Yale and was teacher of my professor at Western Washington University (William Stoever - who wrote A Faire and Easie Way to Heaven). This book is fantastic, well-written, and riveting. I read it in college and have read it since.
Zach Hollifield
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, favorites
Most likely the most in depth and yet comprehensive study of American Religion to date.
Tim Senter
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-the-shelf
Excellent catalogue of the history America's religious development. Good reference, well resourced.
Covenant Presbyterian Springfield Ohio
Call Number: 277 AHL

Sep 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Comprehensive and intriguing... if you like the subject matter.
Sterling Fritz
One of the definitive works in this area. Well worth reading.
Mar 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Really ought to be called "A Christian History of the American People." The new version may address this issue, but I haven't read it. Otherwise very good.
At about 1100 pages, this book is loaded with information. I simply ran out of steam at about 400 pages, which only got me up to about the early nineteenth century.
Chris Comis
Very informative. Ahlstrom wasn't very orthodox, but he quotes Philip Schaff like an adoring little school boy, which makes the book much more readable than it would have been otherwise.
Steve Walker
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Sep 08, 2011
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Dec 28, 2007
David Woods
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Nov 10, 2017
Kenneth Bernoska
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Aug 26, 2019
Brian Elswick
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Jun 14, 2015
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