What I am 'tis hard to know: Primitive Baptists, the Protestant self, and the American religious imagination Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 21, 2019
  • Guthman, Joshua Aaron
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • Though forged in the fires of the early nineteenth-century evangelical revivals, Primitive Baptists became the most significant opponents of the burgeoning antebellum evangelical movement. As Calvinists who despised missionaries, Sunday schools, Bible tract societies, and the other accouterments of evangelical Protestantism, the Primitives expressed none of the evangelicals' certainty of salvation. To understand why the Primitives fought evangelicalism, why they secured victory in parts of the South, and why they ultimately lost out, we need to come to grips with the deeply personal nature of their struggle. Theirs was a fight over many things -- doctrine, the influence of money in the church, ministerial authority, local autonomy, and sundry other matters -- all of which registered firstly and most dramatically on the personal level. This dissertation demonstrates that an approach centered on the relationship between Primitive Baptist faith and selfhood offers the most compelling explanation of how the Primitives' personal spiritual crises animated wide-ranging battles over religious doctrine, cultural authority, and social class in a changing American South.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Kasson, John F.
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

This work has no parents.