Seminar in United States History



Spring 2014

HIUS 4501 (2)

Seminar in United States History

"War and Religion in American Society"

D.H. Dilbeck

This course explores the relationship between religion and war in American history from the Revolution to the onset of the Cold War. Though intentionally wide in chronological scope, the readings for this course all address three broad questions: How has religion influenced why, when, and how America wages war? How have issues surrounding war and peace affected American religion? How have war and religion together shaped American national identity? 

After five weeks of readings, students will spend the rest of the semester producing an original research paper of 25-30 pages on a topic related to the history of religion and war in America in any era of their choosing.

Each of the five weeks of common readings will focus on a major conflict in American history: the American Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. Some of the specific topics we will address include: religious millennialism and its political implications during the Revolution; the Civil War era “theological crisis” over the Bible that exacerbated the controversies over slavery; the providential worldview prevalent in nineteenth-century America that gave meaning to the sacrifices and outcomes of American wars; the religious faith of soldiers, especially in World War I; confidence (and doubts) about the power of war to solidify political and religious principles at home and extend them abroad; twentieth-century Christian non-violence movements; and early Cold War efforts to define America’s struggle against global communism as a religious contest.

We will read a blend of articles and monographs in the first five weeks, including:

  • James P. Byrd, Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • Mark Noll, The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (University of North Carolina Press, 2006)
  • Jonathan Ebel, Faith in the Fight: Religion and the American Soldier in the Great War (Princeton University Press, 2010)
  • Joseph Kip Kosek, Acts of Conscience: Christian Nonviolence and Modern American Democracy (Columbia University Press, 2009)

Final grades for this course will be based on discussion participation in the first five weeks of the course (30%), a preliminary research proposal including annotated bibliography (10%), a rough draft of the paper (10%), and a final draft of the paper due at the end of the semester (50%).

This course fulfills the second writing requirement.



Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904



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