Way of Improvement Leads to BaldBlogger

Paul Harvey

Don't miss the conversation between two of our contributing editors, Phillip Sinitiere and John Fea, as Phil interviews John over at Baldblogger about John's book The Way of Improvement Leads Home: Philip Vickers Fithian and the Rural Enlightenment in Early America -- Part 1 here, and Part II here.

Also, let me second John's congratulatory comments here about Phil's recent successes, earning his PhD, co-authoring a book, and getting a job all nearly simultaneously!:

ongrats to Phil on his recent graduation from the University of Houston with a Ph.D in American history, on the publication of his new book, Holy Mavericks: Evangelical Innovators and the Spiritual Marketplace (NYU Press), and on his new teaching post in the history department at Sam Houston State."

A brief excerpt from the interview:

BB: What are some important things that modern readers can take from the life of Philip Vickers Fithian? Why does he matter for today?

JF: I try to speculate on this a bit in the conclusion of the book. For me, Philip’s story is an American one. He reminds us that Enlightenment cosmopolitanism always existed in compromise with local attachments. We Americans still pursue self-betterment through higher education. We travel around the globe and boast about our world citizenship. But we also long for the passions, love, and faith that bring meaning, in a transcendent way, to our lives. We are mobile people, but we also search for roots as part of our attempt to connect to particular pasts or places. We cherish unlimited progress even as we prepare ourselves for death. It seems to me that these tensions have always defined the American experience. In other words, many of us hope that our “way of improvement” will lead us “home.” Philip’s life has made me think about how I live my own life. When I started a blog [BB: and a Facebook group!] to help promote the book I realized that it was hard to separate Philip’s eighteenth-century story from my own convictions about life. Those familiar with my blog know that sometimes it is unclear when I am blogging about my own thoughts about place, cosmopolitanism, self-improvement, or ambition and when I am describing Philip’s story inThe Way of Improvement Leads Home. I am not sure if this lack of detachment makes me a bad historian, but I just can’t ignore the fact that many of Philip’s convictions and struggles are also my own.


Luke Harlow said…
Great interview. And three cheers for Phil!

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