Conrad Wright’s Bibliography of UU History: Introduction

INTRODUCTION by Conrad Wright

This is not a critical bibliography, nor is it limited to scholarly monographs and articles. It is rather an omnium gatherum of items appearing since 1946 that have come to my attention. Monographs, dissertations, and pieces published in scholarly journals make up the bulk of the listing. Included also are fugitive items on aspects of Unitarian Universalist history that scholars have ignored or never gotten around to. Parish history is the most obvious instance, and often the only available material has been prepared by devoted members of churches in the form of pamphlets for commemorative occasions. Even a simple list of meetinghouses, with brief sketches of ministers, may prove useful. Some items will be considered trivial, but the intent is to include material that those at work on a particular topic would want to know about, even if they quickly decide it may be ignored.

Necessarily ministers loom large in the listings, since their careers were ecclesiastical and their primary concerns religious and theological. Laypersons there were who were loyal Unitarians and Universalists, whose personal lives were deeply informed by religious commitment. But their biographies are chiefly concerned with secular and public achievements and seldom touch on their religious lives, even when they were active in denominational and local church affairs. So inadequate representation here of such persons, male and female, does not mean that Unitarianism and Universalism have been the business of ecclesiastical professionals only.

Some particular limitations should be mentioned:

Bronson Alcott. Alcott is marginal so far as Unitarian history strictly defined is concerned, but he was so much involved with others who were not marginal that he cannot be excluded.

Orestes Brownson. Included are items casting light on his career prior to the conversion to Catholicism.

Ralph Waldo Emerson. Included are items concerning his early life and intellec�tual development down to the Divinity School address. Other bibliographical tools are amply available for the entire career.

Margaret Fuller. Fuller�s early life involved interaction with such people as William Ellery Channing, James Freeman Clarke, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frederic Henry Hedge, and Elizabeth P. Peabody. But her later career falls outside the limits of this bibliography.

Edward Everett Hale. Hale had a literary career as well as an ecclesiastical one, though regrettably little has been done to explore his involvement with denominational affairs. No attempt has been made to search for items of literary rather than historical scholarship.

Charles Hartshorne and Henry Nelson Wieman. Most that has been written about these men is of interest more to philosophers than to historians. But to the extent that their philosophical outlooks have theological bearing, they have greatly interested some Unitarian and Universalist ministers, and that part of their work is relevant.

Joseph Priestley. Coverage is primarily of his career after the arrival in the United States, though his theological position achieved earlier is not ruled out. But his scientific work is mostly passed over.

Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson. Paine was a deist, accepting Natural Religion but rejecting Revealed Religion, and so widely condemned as an infidel. Jefferson was also a deist so far as can be discerned, since he kept his religious views very much to himself. He was necessarily a unitarian with respect to the nature of Christ. But he was not a Unitarian, as that term identified the Liberal Christians of the day, since he differed both from the Arian Christology of men like Channing and the Socinian Christology of men like Priestley. Pieces dealing with the religious views of both men are included here, since a later generation claims them as representatives of liberal religion in some larger sense.

Users of the several indexes should be warned that they are not cross-referenced. Material on a particular topic may have to be sought by reference to more than one of them. In most cases, the Index of Names will prove to be the most useful, even though the Topical Index may have a heading that seems to be quite plausible.

See also: