It’s not every day that you get to meet and hear a lecture by a Pulitzer Prize winner. But if you were at Providence yesterday, you got that chance.
Daniel Walker Howe, eminent U.S. historian and author of What Hath God Wrought, spoke on religion in pre-Civil War United States. He also took questions about his book and about what inspired his work. In addition to speaking, Dr. Howe spent the morning at Providence to hear the other speakers and eat lunch with staff and faculty.
For his lecture, Dr. Howe spoke about the religious and political environment that characterized the time between the war of 1812 and the Mexican War, an era often overlooked. Dr. Russ Reeves, provost at Providence, noted that this period is traditionally neglected because of scholars’ focus on either the American Revolution or the Civil War. Many people across academia consider Dr. Howe’s work to be the one of the most definitive books on the time period.
During his lecture, Howe showed photographs of key people and engaged the audience during a time of questions which Dr. Ryan McIlhenny moderated. Howe recounted how Oxford University Press originally approached him about writing the book in 1992. He wrote the book over a span of 10 years and Oxford published it in 2006 as one of the volumes in its Oxford History of the United States. The book subsequently earned him the Pulitzer Prize for history in 2008.
“His lecture was crafted like a narrative similar to his book, rather than just a bunch of facts,” senior Evelyn Vane said.
One of the themes of his lecture was the connection between democracy in America and the birth of new religions like Mormonism. He also touched on Seventh-day Adventism, the Mexican War, Samuel B. Morse, and slavery. Overall, the address was a broad and informative summary of his book.
“I liked that his speech was relevant and accessible to everyone, while still providing a lot of good content,” sophomore Ruby Jeffrey said.
Dr. Howe’s lecture was the keynote address in Providence’s inaugural academic conference. Lecturers in the morning included Edmund Mazza from Azusa Pacific University; Kevin Johnson from California State University, Long Beach; and Philip Olsson, a recent graduate from Claremont Graduate University’s history PhD program. Each of the lectures had a different take on Christianity and history, leaving the audience with a broad range of ideas.
Drs. McIlhenny and Reeves were responsible for setting up the conference and they look forward to making it an annual event.