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Evangelical Gotham

Religion and the Making of New York City, 1783-1860

Kyle B. Roberts

Evangelical Gotham

Kyle B. Roberts

352 pages | 32 halftones, 7 maps, 8 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2016
Cloth $50.00 ISBN: 9780226388144 Published November 2016
E-book $50.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226388281 Published November 2016
At first glance, evangelical and Gotham seem like an odd pair. What does a movement of pious converts and reformers have to do with a city notoriously full of temptation and sin? More than you might think, says Kyle B. Roberts, who argues that religion must be considered alongside immigration, commerce, and real estate scarcity as one of the forces that shaped the New York City we know today.
            In Evangelical Gotham, Roberts explores the role of the urban evangelical community in the development of New York between the American Revolution and the Civil War. As developers prepared to open new neighborhoods uptown, evangelicals stood ready to build meetinghouses. As the city’s financial center emerged and solidified, evangelicals capitalized on the resultant wealth, technology, and resources to expand their missionary and benevolent causes. When they began to feel that the city’s morals had degenerated, evangelicals turned to temperance, Sunday school, prayer meetings, antislavery causes, and urban missions to reform their neighbors. The result of these efforts was Evangelical Gotham—a complicated and contradictory world whose influence spread far beyond the shores of Manhattan.
 
Winner of the 2015 Dixon Ryan Fox Manuscript Prize from the New York State Historical Association
Contents
Introduction
Part I 1783–1815
1 Crossings and Dwellings
2 The Widow, the Missionary, and the Prostitute
Part II 1815–1840
3 The New Missionary Field
4 Practicing Faith through Reading and Writing
5 Free Churches and the Limits of Reform
Part III 1840–1860
6 Perfection and the Antebellum Urban Evangelical Woman
7 Moving Uptown
Conclusion
Acknowledgments
Appendix
Notes
Index
Review Quotes
Mark A. Noll, author of America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln

“With deep and wide-ranging research, Roberts has provided a path-breaking interpretation of religious dynamics in the development of New York City as the nation’s leading urban center. The book is simply jammed with insights—especially on the city’s expanding but also conflicted evangelical churches (Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist), but also on race, religious and ethnic minorities, missionary initiatives, market-place instincts, gender, revival, philanthropic voluntarism, and more. Evangelical Gotham is a splendid book.”

Amanda Porterfield, author of Conceived in Doubt: Religion and Politics in the New American Nation
“Roberts’s deeply researched and much anticipated book calls attention away from the frontier to show how influential Manhattan was as a center for evangelical religion in the early American republic. With extensive evidence of the presence of evangelical organizations in the expansion of New York City, Roberts corrects the mistaken impression that religion played only a minor role in the development of that vibrant commercial center. This book will find its place among ‘must reads’ for a long time to come.”
Jon Butler, Yale University
Evangelical Gotham’s evocative portrait of born-again Protestantism in early nineteenth-century New York City offers a startling new history of religious fervor in a city too quickly tagged with secularism and a vivid account of America’s first evangelical nerve center. Vividly written and ingeniously researched, Evangelical Gotham recasts much of what we thought we knew about American urbanism, religion, and the dynamics of American evangelical germination.”
Robert Gross, University of Connecticut
“Until recently historians have viewed the landscape of religion chiefly from the perspective of social history, treating the realm of faith as a subjective response to uncertainty and change and spiritual movements as instruments for imposing order. Sometimes the secular approach goes farther and sees in revivals and awakenings the ambitions of elites to impose social control over the subordinate classes. Roberts will have none of this. In Evangelical Gotham, religion operates as a domain of meaning in its own right, anchoring individual lives, building institutions, and inspiring aid to the needy in body and spirit. Roberts shows that evangelicals embraced the city and appropriated its characteristic institutions to religious ends. In a stratified society, rent by divisions of class, race, and ethnicity, these dedicated souls were inclusive and expansive, seeking to bring every possible soul within their embrace. Such a faith proved a social force of immense importance and in charting its impact Roberts provides us with a powerful lens through which to view the world of the early republic.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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