RAAC IUPUI > Search Resources > Religion in the Nineteenth Century American West

Religion in the Nineteenth Century American West

Although the boundaries of what is considered “the west” have shifted over the past three centuries, the region has always loomed large in American mythology. Imagined at various times as a virginal wilderness, savage frontier, bountiful garden, and heavenly utopia, the west has served as a reflection of Americans’ wildest hopes and most urgent fears. From its “wide open spaces” where individuality and freedom might finally flourish to its promise of opportunity and re-invention, the west continues to inhabit a central place in American culture. This course will focus on the religious dimensions of Americans’ fascination and interactions with the west during the nineteenth century. Using a mix of recent writings by historians and primary sources from people who lived during the era (missionaries and converts, map makers and ghost dancers, Mormon exiles and Chinese immigrants), we will consider how religious ideas shaped day-to-day life in the west as well as how religion influenced how the region was imagined, conquered, and transformed.


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

Joshua Paddison

Indiana University

Public College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Undergraduate Course
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies, American Studies, Area Studies, History

Other Christianities
Religous Tradition

Gender/Women/ Sexuality, Race/Ethnicity, Region/Urban/Rural, Nationalism/War/Civil Religion, Science/Technology/Environment

Link to Resource