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Religion in American History

This overview of religious history emphasizes the interplay between religion and secular culture, and how this has affected American history. The course is presented from a social history perspective and takes an expansive view of what constitutes American religions, their functions, and influences in shaping the nation’s past. The material is presented chronologically against the background of the developing United States with religious expression and traditions appearing as they came onto the American scene, but without tracing their entire histories. Instead, we selectively explore some important links between ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ arenas that influenced the way America and its peoples evolved. Thus some of the recurring topics of the course include the impact of religion on: identity, community and nation building, social and political change, class, gender, and ethnic relations, and so forth. The course will introduce students to the myriad religious traditions in American history but, more importantly, it will deepen their understanding of religion as a historical force, and hone their skills of historical analysis and writing. Activities designed to achieve this include lectures, films and, most importantly, structured small-group exercises that emphasize the critical evaluation of historical evidence and formulation of coherent arguments necessary for writing thesis-driven essays.


This syllabus was created for the Young Scholars in American Religion program.

Roberto R. Trevino

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

Public College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Undergraduate Course
Class Type

Date Published


General Comparative Traditions
Religous Tradition

Class/Power, Gender/Women/ Sexuality, Immigration/Refugees, Politics/Law/Government, Pluralism/Secularism/Culture Wars, Race/Ethnicity

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