The Well-Stocked UU History Bookshelf

David Throop started a thread on another blog about what books Unitarian-Universalist churches ought to have on their history bookshelves.  The guidelines are that the cost shouldn’t be more than $200, there should be a clear focus on Unitarians/Universalists/Unitarian-Universalists, and the books ought to also be suitable for sale at a district event (which implies that they should be titles that are currently in print).  It’s an excellent issue to raise, and herewith are the Transient and Permanent picks for the well-stocked, modestly-priced UU history bookshelf, designed to serve both newcomers to UU history and those who wish to dig more deeply:

Bumbaugh, David E.  Unitarian Universalism: A Narrative History.  (Chicago: Meadville-Lombard Press, 2000). $15

Cassara, Ernest.  Universalism in America: A Documentary History of a Liberal Faith.  (Boston: Skinner House Books, 1997). $20

Gura, Philip F.  American Transcendentalism: A History.  (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007). $15

Howe, Charles A.  The Larger Faith: A Short History of American Universalism.  (Boston: Skinner House Books, 1993). $16

Morrison-Reed, Mark D.  Black Pioneers in a White Denomination (Third Edition). (Boston: Skinner House Books, 1994). $16

Parke, David B.  The Epic of Unitarianism: Original Writings from the History of Liberal Religion.  (Boston: Skinner House Books, 1998). $16

Ross, Warren R.  The Premise and the Promise: The Story of the Unitarian Universalist Association.  (Boston: Skinner House Books, 2001). $24

Scott, Rebecca, and Wayne B. Arnason.  We Would Be One: A History of Unitarian Universalist Youth Movements.  (Boston: Skinner House Books, 2005). $15

Tucker, Cynthia Grant.  Prophetic Sisterhood: Liberal Women Ministers of the Frontier, 1880-1930.  (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, 2000). $20

Williams, George Huntston.  American Universalism (Fourth Edition).  (Boston: Skinner House Books and the Unitarian Universalist Historical Society, 2002). $14

Wright, Conrad, ed.  A Stream of Light: A Short History of American Unitarianism.  (Boston: Skinner House Books, 2001).  $14

Wright, Conrad.  The Unitarian Controversy: Essays on American Unitarian History.  (Boston: Skinner House Books, 1994). $12

Notes: This list obviously is designed to serve American Unitarian-Universalists, as that is where Mr. Throop resides.  European UUs should substitute Charles A. Howe’s For Faith and Freedom: A Short History of Unitarianism in Europe (Boston: Skinner House Books, 1997)–$16–for Wright’s A Stream of Light;  Canadians will have to go to the used book services in search of a copy of Phillip Hewett’s Unitarians in Canada (Toronto: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1978).  The list is comprised of a dozen books for a cost of $197, or $199 for Europeans.  Happy reading!



Filed under Book Notes, Liberal Religious History, Unitarian-Universalism, Unitarianism, Universalism

8 responses to “The Well-Stocked UU History Bookshelf

  1. The Eclectic Cleric

    David Robinson’s *The Unitarians and the Universalists* is still the finest single-volume history of our movement(s) ever written, and should be included in any church library regardless of the cost. Holley Ulbrich’s new book on *The Fellowship Movement* is another title I would have included, and I’ve also been enjoying Leonard Smith’s *The Unitarians: a Short History* (although I don’t know whether it would really replace the Brumbaugh).

    As a historian, I generally like using primary sources, but I’m not particularly impressed with either the Parke or the Cassara anthologies, and would probably cut them in exchange for something else. Perhaps Charles Lyttle’s *Freedom Moves West,* now back in print again thanks to Lynn and Peter Hughes at Blackstone Editions.

    Likewise, Cindy Tucker’s book has been very popular but actually exaggerates the importance of a relatively minor and otherwise obscure moment of our history; a much better choice would be Ann Douglass’ *The Feminization of American Culture.* Mark and Wayne’s books are likewise both very good, but I would be more inclined to something like Vic Carpenter’s history of the Empowerment Controversy (which has a little harder edge), or Duncan Howlett’s *No Greater Love.*

    I’m also missing Conrad Wright’s *The Liberal Christians* and several other more “classic” histories which are more difficult to find than the more recent Skinner House publications which seem to dominate your list: Conrad Wright’s *The Beginnings of Unitarianism in America,* William Hutchinson’s *The Transcendentalist Ministers,* Daniel Walker Howe’s *The Unitarian Conscience* and Stephen Nissenbaum’s *The Battle for Christmas.*

    Dean Grodzin’s biobraphy of Theodore Parker is also destined to become a classic, while John Allen Macaulay’s *Unitarianism in the Antebellum South* is another more recent take on the influence of English Unitarianism outside of New England.

    And let’s not forget the new Blackstone Editions publication of *The Cambridge Platform.*

    Cost? Who knows? No doubt a bit more than $200, especially since many of these books aren’t even still in print (violating another of the thread’s rules — oops!) And there are still hundreds additional worthy titles that could certainly use a wider readership (including my own unpublished 2001 Doctoral dissertation on the Wares).

  2. I am embarrassed to say as a life long UU that I don’t think I have read any of these.

  3. Transient and Permanent

    Another good list, though it completely violates the thought experiment: total minimal cost (assuming one buys the absolute cheapest used copies of the books that aren’t in print) is $322, a number of these aren’t actually on UUism, and six of them are out of print. Which, of course, is why they didn’t make the original cut. That said, for UU church librarians with a larger budget and willingness to stock imperfect copies, this is a list with a lot of worthy stuff. I hope folks are taking notes!

  4. Well I mentioned one or two on the original poster’s post —
    let me repeat that every UU Library needs at least one “local” history.
    I would include “The Other Side of Salvation” to show the side that we dont want to admit to anymore. a biography of Murray, Ballou.
    Either something by Clinton Lee Scott’s memoirs or the Charles Street Meeting House book.

  5. Transient and Permanent

    Steven, I agree that local history is important. It does pose problems for David’s original framework, though, since local histories often aren’t in print any longer, and it is impossible to include an applicable title in an intentionally generic list like this (i.e. David in Texas would presumably benefit from a Southern title, but other readers elsewhere would prefer something more local to their location). Maybe I should’ve left out a title and included a blank space for [local history, approximately $25]? That might serve the purpose.

    I left off “The Other Side of Salvation” since it stretches the requirement to be focused on UUs. My assumption is that local, non-specialist readers (the type most likely to be served by a church library, as opposed to historians such as ourselves who build up big personal collections and inter-library loan all sorts of stuff) would want the meat and potatoes stuff first, and “Other Side” represents a sort of second-order analysis that only really becomes significant after you’ve digested the mainstream/main party line stuff represented herein. But if we’d been allowed $300, it would’ve made the cut.

  6. i see your point about “The Other Side …” although there are alot more UUs in there than in the nomination of “The Cambridge Platform”.
    Since they are out of print, I didnt mention the 2 volume set “The Larger Hope” – or Richard Eddy’s 2 volume “Universalism in America” .

  7. Don Parker

    Amazon and others are wonderful resources for finding a lot of these inexpensively. Also encourage donations to the church library from personal libraries, and coordinate with your RE committee to see if any of their lesson planning might use works that could be transferred to the church library when finished. Our 100-member congregation has a strong library tradition going back over a century to the church’s founding, and we’ve acquired about half of the books on the list by donation.

  8. Pingback: Sponsorship: Weathering Tough Economic Times at UU Churches « Transient and Permanent

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