Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

James Bennett, Lowell Harrison, Carlton Jackson

Degree Program

Department of History

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Frederick Jackson Turner exercised considerable influence among American religious historians during the first four decades of the twentieth century, especially at the University of Chicago's Divinity School, William Warren Sweet, the father of American church history, became the major religious popularizer and adherent of Turner's frontier thesis. Sweet's professional secular training and adaptation of the frontier thesis in historiography allowed him to make church history a respectable academic study among American secular historians. After the Second World War American historiography underwent a shaking of its progressive foundations, and a similar parallel was found in religious historiography. The New Church History advanced considerably beyond Sweet's adaptation of the frontier thesis, especially in the writings of Sidney E. Mead, a Sweet student. By the 1950's consensus assumptions in historiography dominated both religious and secular American historiography. A flourishing of religious history about minority and ethnic groupings was another indicator of historians going beyond the frontier thesis. Such an advancement exemplified the shedding of Turner's Anglo-Saxon bias, and in Sweet's case an Anglo- Saxon-Protestant bias by American religious historians.


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