Having the big picture in mind helps a historian appreciate the variety of human experience in particular places and times.— D.G. Hart
B.A., Film, Temple University (1979)
M.A.R. Church History, Westminster Seminary (1981)
M.T.S., U.S. Religious History, Harvard University (1983)
M.A., U.S. History, Johns Hopkins University (1985)
Ph.D., U.S. History, Johns Hopkins University (1988)
American Historical Association
American Society of Church History
Conference on Faith and History
Board of Directors – Mencken Society
Board of Directors – Presbyterian Historical Society
Makemie Prize for best book in Presbyterian History, 1994 (Presbyterian Historical Society)
Calvinism: A History, Yale (2013)
From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin: Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism, Eerdmans (2011)
Between the Times: The Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Transition, 1945-1990, OPC Committee for the Historian (2011)
Seeking A Better Country: 300 Years of American Presbyterianism, P&R Books (2007)
A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State, Ivan R. Dee (2006)
The Lost Soul of American Protestantism, Rowman & Littlefield (2004)
The University Gets Religion: Religious Studies and American Higher Education, Johns Hopkins (1999)
Defending the Faith: J. Gresham Machen and the Crisis of Conservative Protestantism in Modern America, Johns Hopkins (1994)
History is Accidental
My parents wanted me to do well in whatever I did as long as I went to church. I had no idea when I chose to major in film as an undergraduate that I would grow up to be a historian. I also have no idea why I wasn’t a history major (though I still enjoy and see a lot of movies).
When I finished graduate school, my idea of being a historian was to write books. That goal is generally what most newly minted Ph.D.’s have as the path to success. In my first job I worked with a prominent historian, Dr. Mark A. Noll (now at University of Notre Dame) who became a model for writing lots of books. I still haven’t caught up with him – Noll has more than fifty. But the habit of rising early to write at least one page a day was a great lesson – finding something to write daily is another question.
As much as I enjoy writing, teaching undergraduates at Hillsdale and especially the core courses, Western Heritage and American Heritage, has only given me more to say when I do still rise with our hungry cats before sunrise. I have a much better understanding of the flow of human thought and the development of western traditions and the way they came to North American than I ever did when narrowly researching the place of the churches in post-Civil War America. Having the big picture in mind helps a historian (me anyway) appreciate the variety of human experience in particular places and times. In addition, the challenge of teaching young people for whom big pictures are often fuzzy keeps a professor on his toes and produces skills for better communication in all sorts of settings (especially when meeting editorial deadlines). Teaching does not detract from writing as I was led to believe in grad school. Teaching enhances writing.
As great as my appreciation is for the core curriculum at Hillsdale and the chance to teach upper level courses in U.S. intellectual and religious history, I am still stuck in the 1920s as the place my historical imagination turns most readily. A dissertation on the New Testament scholar, J. Gresham Machen, a man born and bred in Baltimore first lured me to the charms of modern American society (trains, universities, magazines, movies) before modernization overwhelmed and standardized so much of the United States. A recent writing project on H. L. Mencken, another Baltimorean, has deepened my affection for urban life before the advent of highways and chain stores.
What I learn most (and hope to communicate to students) is how surprising history is. Nothing is inevitable. Thanks to the choices of real people who face circumstances too great to number, history happens in ways that no one can predict. No one in 1789 saw the United States emerging as a superpower any more than I or my parents saw me becoming a professor who teaches history.