Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Great Anti -Awakening: Anti -revivalism in Philadelphia and Charles Town, South Carolina, 1739–1745
by Witzig, Fred, Ph.D., Indiana University, 2008, 430; 3319836
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is a cultural and social history of British colonial America, with an emphasis on religion, polite society, and race in the Middle and Southern colonies. By interpreting church records, newspapers and other forms of colonial print, sermons, tax records, private correspondence, and journals, this project evaluates the efforts of laity and clergy to counter the Great Awakening evangelical revivals during the late 1730s and early 1740s. Using the pulpit and the press, wealthy and polite anti-revivalists focused attention on the social hazards they perceived in the revivalist messages and methods. In South Carolina, anti-revivalists argued that evangelical revivalists were irrational and enthusiastic threats to social order. Anti-revivalists countered revivalism with a claim to greater rationality and stability and positioned themselves as the reliable guardians of the social good. In the racialized climate of South Carolina, with its large population of enslaved Africans, social order had by the time of the Great Awakening assumed primary importance. In Pennsylvania, William Penn's rational, generically Christian social ideology, especially his insistence on freedom of conscience, had by the mid-1700s become an unquestionable component of Philadelphia's culture valued by virtually everyone in the highly diverse and religiously fluid population. The result was a vibrant and durable religious culture that rather easily absorbed and accommodated religious enthusiasm. In Philadelphia, revivalist energy was channeled into existing denominational forms and failed to generate the widespread social reformation hoped for by evangelicals. The dissertation then widens its scope to survey other forms of anti-revivalism throughout the British North American colonies, and the ways that anti-revivalists across the Atlantic worked together to oppose the trans-Atlantic revivalist network that attained its greatest unity and vigor in the itinerant preaching of George Whitefield. Thus, while anti-revivalism was deeply rooted in local social contexts, cooperation across colonial boundaries and the Atlantic cohered into a Great Anti-Awakening that matched the Great Awakening in effort and impact.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Stein, Stephen J.
Commitee: Gamber, Wendy, Knott, Sarah, Wokeck, Marianne
School: Indiana University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 69/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history
Keywords: Antirevivalism, Charles Town, Colonial America, Enlightenment, Great Awakening, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Polite society, Slavery, South Carolina, Whitefield, George
Publication Number: 3319836
ISBN: 978-0-549-70185-9
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