The rise of evangelical religion in South Carolina during the eighteenth century
Little, Thomas James
Boles, John B.
Doctor of Philosophy
Using a developmental model as a heuristic tool for understanding the main contours of socioeconomic and cultural development in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century South Carolina, and following Samuel S. Hill's advice that southern religious historians "must consider how religion is related to developments in other aspects of southern life ... as time passes," this work brings into serious question the widely held, and in no small way reductionist conviction among most historians that religious concerns did not assume the importance in colonial South Carolina and the South in general as they did in New England and the Middle colonies. According to conventional wisdom, there was--for a variety of reasons--an almost complete breakdown of institutional religion and a concomitant rise in secularism in the southern colonies, and, although there were occasional, isolated religious revivals after the 1740s, there was no significant reversal in this trend until the so-called second Great Awakening at the beginning of the nineteenth century. If, in emphasizing the discontinuities between the intensely religious early national period and the spiritually flabby colonial period, historians have--to one degree or another--tended to belittle the importance of religion in the pre-Revolutionary South, so too have they prevented us from understanding the general thrust and character of religious developments and the rise of evangelicalism. For far from simply being awash in a static sea of religious apathy, as this work shows was the case for South Carolina, southerners developed a vital, dynamic religious culture during the eighteenth century; and, the influence of evangelicalism began to manifest itself very early on. As the number of evangelical churches and ministers increased in the half century or so before 1800, a unique and profoundly subjective religious belief system emerged and became ever more widespread. This belief system was partly a cause and partly a result of the process of sublimating the pursuit of self and developing an alternative morality that more accurately reflected prevailing modes of behavior.
American history; Religious history