Lincoln Mullen’s recent book, The Chance of Salvation: A History of Conversion in America (Harvard University Press, 2017), has just been awarded the “Best First Book in the History of Religions Award” by the American Academy of Religion. The selection committee considers all books relating to the history of religion in several different disciplines—religious studies, history, anthropology, art history and law. The award is one of five book prizes given out each year by the association. A full list of those awards can be found here.
Mullen’s book examines the 19th-century origins of the widespread belief in American culture that religion is a matter of individual choice. He traces the emergence of this belief over the course of nineteenth century, when an array of religious options led Americans of many religious traditions to see their own faith as a consciously chosen individual identity rather than as a family or ethnic inheritance. Mullen explores this development by looking at a range of religious faiths over the course of the nineteenth century, including evangelical Protestantism, Mormonism, Judaism, and Catholicism.
Brian Platt, the chair of the Department of History and Art History, remarks, “Most academic book awards are limited to a single discipline and chronological period. This one encompasses many disciplines and all chronological periods, and considers books about all religious traditions. It is therefore one of the most competitive book awards anyone in our department has received. The list of past award winners includes books about everything from medieval Islam to modern Confucianism, written by a who’s who of esteemed religion scholars. It is an honor for one of our faculty members to be listed among them.”
Mullen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History and Art History. In addition to his work in American religious history, he is also a leading scholar in the field of digital history and has led a number of major digital projects. Among them are America’s Public Bible, which uses text-mining technology to enable users to track the use of the Biblical quotations in American newspapers over the 19th century. He has also created widely-used software packages that scholars can use to apply digital methods to scholarly topics in the humanities.
September 24, 2018