U.S. Intellectual History Blog

The New Mormon History and Religious Geography

I’m doing a little catching up on journal back-issues and thought I would point out articles or books of interest to intellectual historians as I do so. In the Sept. 2007 issue of the Journal of American History, there is a terrific exchange between Jan Shipps and Richard Lyman Bushman over “the New Mormon History,” which is a movement of critical yet still believing Mormons to study their own past. The exchange raises very important questions about the critical position toward one’s own subject matter, the purpose and function of insider and outsider history, the tricky dilemma of managing stakeholders and gatekeepers when accessing and using sources, among others.

Jan Shipps’s initial review is here.
Richard Lyman Bushman’s response is here.

In that same issue, be sure to check out Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp on religious geographies. As she points out, the line between identifying a regional religious culture and reinforcing a regional stereotype is very fine. Whether or not a scholar crosses it depends very much on the criteria used to define the region itself, which sometimes do not comport with a common sense understanding.