What Hath God Wrought wins Pulitzer

By Kelly Baker

For reasons unknown, my scientist spouse received notification from Oxford that David Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. However the news appeared (veiled in mystery and strange email), it is always good news when a work of American religious history wins a major prize. What Hath God Wrought also won the New-York Historical Society American History Book Prize. Howe's epic is now a part of my ever-lengthening list of must-read books (all that I will read promptly after finishing my dissertation). Here's the description from Oxford:

Howe's panoramic narrative portrays revolutionary improvements in transportation and communications that accelerated the extension of the American empire. Railroads, canals, newspapers, and the telegraph dramatically lowered travel times and spurred the spread of information. These innovations prompted the emergence of mass political parties and stimulated America's economic development from an overwhelmingly rural country to a diversified economy in which commerce and industry took their place alongside agriculture. In his story, the author weaves together political and military events with social, economic, and cultural history. He examines the rise of Andrew Jackson and his Democratic party, but contends that John Quincy Adams and other Whigs--advocates of public education and economic integration, defenders of the rights of Indians, women, and African-Americans--were the true prophets of America's future. He reveals the power of religion to shape many aspects of American life during this period, including slavery and antislavery, women's rights and other reform movements, politics, education, and literature. Howe's story of American expansion culminates in the bitterly controversial but brilliantly executed war waged against Mexico to gain California and Texas for the United States. By 1848 America had been transformed.

What Hath God Wrought
provides a monumental narrative of this formative period in United States history.


Anonymous said…
Sometimes I wonder if the "Bank War" will ever end. Schlesinger Jr.... Sellers ... Howe. I'm now waiting for the Trist turn in antebellum studies.
Mike Pasquier said…
Kelly, your post made me curious about other Pulitzer winners related to the history of religion in America. There aren't many winners with religion as a primary concern. Perhaps Edward Larson's 1998 _Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuin Debate Over Science and Religion_ is the most recent. Of course, Louis Menand's _The Metaphysical Club_ discusses religion quite a bit. But my favorites--books that I go back to time and time again--are Leon Litwack's _Been in the Storm So Long_ (awarded 1980) and Rhys Isaac's _The Transformation of Virginia_ (awarded 1983).

Interestingly, the 1976 winner was a biography of a little-known French-born Catholic priest in nineteenth-century New Mexico, called _Lamy of Santa Fe_.

Perry Miller won in 1966 with _The Life of the Mind in America_.

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