Catalogue


Cosmos crumbling : American reform and the religious imagination /
Robert H. Abzug.
imprint
New York : Oxford University Press, 1994.
description
ix, 285 p. ; 24 cm.
ISBN
0195037529 (alk. paper) :
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
New York : Oxford University Press, 1994.
isbn
0195037529 (alk. paper) :
catalogue key
322230
 
Includes bibliographical references (p. 231-276) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1994-11:
In this major reinterpretation of early antebellum reform movements, Abzug (Univ. of Texas) reassesses their evangelical Protestant roots and asserts the primacy of the religious factor in shaping reform movements in specific ways. Abzug uses biographical profile analysis that focuses mainly on the original founders of various reforms rather than using a detailed diachronic analysis of the movements themselves. Profiles of Benjamin Rush, William Lloyd Garrison, Lyman and Catharine Beecher, and Angelina and Sarah Grimk'e, among others, are included as he examines the reformers' cosmologies, the religious aspects of reform ritual, and the relation of religious and secular elements of everyday life at both the personal and social levels. Abzug considers education, abolition, temperance, women's rights, vegetarianism, phrenology, and other bodily reforms, but omits prison reform, care of the insane, poor relief, and peace movements. Full critical endnotes, but a somewhat sparse index. General readers; upper-division undergraduates and above. M. L. Dolan; Northern Michigan University
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Abzug...offers a broad-ranging but tightly integrated analysis of an unusually wide spectrum of religious expressions and reform activities....[The book] is deeply informed by a rich sense of current historiography, develops multiple narratives, and offers complex assessments of individuals'motivations....[T]oday's scholars should likewise welcome this unusuallu cogent explanation of the importance of religion in the history of antebellum reform."--James B. Stewart, author of Holy Warriors, in Reviews in American History
"Abzug...offers a broad-ranging but tightly integrated analysis of anunusually wide spectrum of religious expressions and reform activities....[Thebook] is deeply informed by a rich sense of current historiography, developsmultiple narratives, and offers complex assessments of individuals'motivations....[T]oday's scholars should likewise welcome this unusuallu cogentexplanation of the importance of religion in the history of antebellumreform."--James B. Stewart, author of Holy Warriors, in Reviews in AmericanHistory
"An insightful narrative and analysis that explores in an effective manner why the New England religious culture was the force behind Antebellum reform."--Donald Pickens, University of North Texas
"An insightful narrative and analysis that explores in an effective mannerwhy the New England religious culture was the force behind Antebellumreform."--Donald Pickens, University of North Texas
"In this shrewd and insightful work, Robert Abzug skillfully shows how evangelical Protestant religion produced such movements as temperance, abolition, vegetarianism, and feminism. Because theology and values, he argues, lay at the core, they shaped reform in quite specific ways. Althoughnever overly stated, this book holds powerful implications for the present both in understanding American culture and in suggesting the conditions necessary for reform to take place."--W.J. Rorabaugh, University of Washington
"In this shrewd and insightful work, Robert Abzug skillfully shows howevangelical Protestant religion produced such movements as temperance,abolition, vegetarianism, and feminism. Because theology and values, he argues,lay at the core, they shaped reform in quite specific ways. Although neveroverly stated, this book holds powerful implications for the present both inunderstanding American culture and in suggesting the conditions necessary forreform to take place."--W.J. Rorabaugh, University of Washington
"Robert Abzug's Cosmos Crumbling is a brilliant reinterpretation of the dynamic reform movements that proliferated in the five decades following the American independence. By focusing on the reformers search for a 'sacred connection,' Abzug succeeds in breaking out of the constraining cocoonimposed by our own secular era and in comprehending nineteenth century reformers in their own terms, within their own cosmos. Abzug goes far beyond any previous historian in getting to the core of American reform and thus to a vital part of American identity."--David Brion Davis, YaleUniversity
"Robert Abzug's Cosmos Crumbling is a brilliant reinterpretation of thedynamic reform movements that proliferated in the five decades following theAmerican independence. By focusing on the reformers search for a 'sacredconnection,' Abzug succeeds in breaking out of the constraining cocoon imposedby our own secular era and in comprehending nineteenth century reformers intheir own terms, within their own cosmos. Abzug goes far beyond any previoushistorian in getting to the core of American reform and thus to a vital part ofAmerican identity."--David Brion Davis, Yale University
"Robert Abzug's Cosmos Crumbling offers the freshest, most elegantly phrased and profoundest reinterpretation of the American reform tradition in the last fifty years. Although it is his proposition that religious motives, religious rituals, and unique personal values guided the many calls formoral and political renewal in the Jacksonian years, these factors, he contends, have continued to influence later crusades, even the seemingly most secular ones of recent years. All students of nineteenth century American history will need to read this work."--Bertram Wyatt-Brown, University ofFlorida
"Robert Abzug's Cosmos Crumbling offers the freshest, most elegantlyphrased and profoundest reinterpretation of the American reform tradition in thelast fifty years. Although it is his proposition that religious motives,religious rituals, and unique personal values guided the many calls for moraland political renewal in the Jacksonian years, these factors, he contends, havecontinued to influence later crusades, even the seemingly most secular ones ofrecent years. All students of nineteenth century American history will need toread this work."--Bertram Wyatt-Brown, University of Florida
"Utterly convincing!! The scholarly conversation on religion and reform will continue, but for the foreseeable future it will center on this book."--Paul E. Johnson, University of Utah
"Utterly convincing!! The scholarly conversation on religion and reformwill continue, but for the foreseeable future it will center on thisbook."--Paul E. Johnson, University of Utah
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, November 1994
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Summaries
Long Description
In the forty years before the Civil War, America was awash in political and social reform movements. Abolitionists stormed against the cruelties of slavery. Temperance zealots hounded producers and consumers of strong drink. Sabbatarians fought to make Sunday an officially recognized sacred day. Woman's rights activists proclaimed the case for sexual equality. Others offered programs of physiological and spiritual self-reform: phrenology, vegetarianism, the water-cure, spiritualism, and miscellaneous others. "Even the insect world was to be defended," Emerson mused, "and a society for the protection of ground-worms, slugs, and mosquitoes was to be incorporated without delay." Cosmos Crumbling brilliantly reassesses the religious roots of these antebellum reform movements through a series of penetrating profiles of key men and women who sought to remake their worlds in sacred terms. Filled with vivid anecdotes and penetrating analysis, the book presents a genealogy of reform cosmology that begins with the American Revolution and ends with "the woman question," the issue that drove a wedge between traditional evangelical reformers and the more radical reformers who questioned the very foundations of the conventional Christian cosmos. Here is the story of Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Rush, and his lifelong odyssey to bring together his unorthodox Christian ideals and his revolutionary republicanism. Other portraits highlight the guiding role of religion in the careers of the tireless abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, the evangelical minister Lyman Beecher, his daughter, influential educational reformer Catharine Beecher, and of Angelina and Sarah Grimke, and Lydia Maria Child, fearless women who made enormous strides in reimagining the spiritual and moral power of women and their place in society. There is also an intriguing chapter on leaders of the body reforms, including phrenologist Orson Squire Fowler, who began his career reading the heads of his fellow students at Amherst College for small change, and William Andrus Alcott, who advocated a bland vegetarian diet, cold water bathing, and a profusion of daily rituals to guide his followers through their every waking moment. Arguing that we cannot understand American reform movements unless we understand the sacred significance reformers bestowed on the worldly arenas of politics, society, and the economy, Abzug presents these men and women in their own words, placing their cherished ideals and their often heated squabbles within the context of their millennial and sometimes apocalyptic sense of America's role in the cosmic drama. Tracing the lasting impact of what began as a peculiarly Protestant, largely New England, style of social action on the uniquely American traditions of activism that flourish today, Cosmos Crumbling is a signal contribution to our understanding of the myriad ways in which the quest for enlightenment and salvation continues to shape American politics.
Main Description
In the forty years before the Civil War, America was awash in political and social reform movements. Abolitionists stormed against the cruelties of slavery. Temperance zealots hounded producers and consumers of strong drink. Sabbatarians fought to make Sunday an officially recognized sacredday. Woman's rights activists proclaimed the case for sexual equality. Others offered programs of physiological and spiritual self-reform: phrenology, vegetarianism, the water-cure, spiritualism, and miscellaneous others. "Even the insect world was to be defended," Emerson mused, "and a society forthe protection of ground-worms, slugs, and mosquitoes was to be incorporated without delay." Cosmos Crumbling brilliantly reassesses the religious roots of these antebellum reform movements through a series of penetrating profiles of key men and women who sought to remake their worlds in sacred terms. Filled with vivid anecdotes and penetrating analysis, the book presents a genealogy ofreform cosmology that begins with the American Revolution and ends with "the woman question," the issue that drove a wedge between traditional evangelical reformers and the more radical reformers who questioned the very foundations of the conventional Christian cosmos. Here is the story ofDeclaration of Independence signer Benjamin Rush, and his lifelong odyssey to bring together his unorthodox Christian ideals and his revolutionary republicanism. Other portraits highlight the guiding role of religion in the careers of the tireless abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, the evangelicalminister Lyman Beecher, his daughter, influential educational reformer Catharine Beecher, and of Angelina and Sarah Grimke, and Lydia Maria Child, fearless women who made enormous strides in reimagining the spiritual and moral power of women and their place in society. There is also an intriguingchapter on leaders of the body reforms, including phrenologist Orson Squire Fowler, who began his career reading the heads of his fellow students at Amherst College for small change, and William Andrus Alcott, who advocated a bland vegetarian diet, cold water bathing, and a profusion of dailyrituals to guide his followers through their every waking moment. Arguing that we cannot understand American reform movements unless we understand the sacred significance reformers bestowed on the worldly arenas of politics, society, and the economy, Abzug presents these men and women in their own words, placing their cherished ideals and their often heatedsquabbles within the context of their millennial and sometimes apocalyptic sense of America's role in the cosmic drama. Tracing the lasting impact of what began as a peculiarly Protestant, largely New England, style of social action on the uniquely American traditions of activism that flourishtoday, Cosmos Crumbling is a signal contribution to our understanding of the myriad ways in which the quest for enlightenment and salvation continues to shape American politics.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Ultraists, Seekers, and the Soldiery of Dissent
Foundations of the Reform Cosmology
Benjamin Rush and Revolutionary Christian Reform
Lyman Beecher and the Cosmic Theater
War in the West: The Radical Revival
Evangelical Reform
The Temperance Reformation
Sabbatarianism and Manual Labor
Radical Transformation
William Lloyd Garrison and the Birth of Abolitionism
The Body Reforms
The Woman Question
Woman's Rights and Schism
Notes
Index
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

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