The Uneasy Center

Reformed Christianity in Antebellum America

By Paul K. Conkin

352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4492-2
    Published: February 1995
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6086-1
    Published: November 2000
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6558-8
    Published: November 2000

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Awards & distinctions

A 1996 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Distinguished intellectual historian Paul Conkin offers the first comprehensive examination of mainline Protestantism in America, from its emergence in the colonial era to its rise to predominance in the early nineteenth century and the beginnings of its gradual decline in the years preceding the Civil War. He clarifies theological traditions and doctrinal arguments and includes substantive discussions of institutional development and of the order and content of worship. Conkin defines Reformed Christianity broadly, to encompass Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Methodists, Calvinist Baptists, and all other denominations originating in the work of reformers other than Luther. He portrays growing unease and conflict within this center of American Protestantism before the Civil War as a result of doctrinal disputes (especially regarding salvation), scholarly and scientific challenges to evangelical Christianity, differences in institutional practices, and sectional disagreements related to the issue of slavery. Conkin grounds his study in a broad history of Western Christianity, and he integrates the South into his discussion, thereby offering a truly national perspective on the history of the Reformed tradition in America.

About the Author

Paul K. Conkin is Distinguished Professor of History at Vanderbilt University. His books include Puritans and Pragmatists: Eight Eminent American Thinkers and Cane Ridge: America's Pentecost.

For more information about Paul K. Conkin, visit the Author Page.


"The book is remarkably lucid and learned. It will influence us for a long time."--Church History

"A masterly synthetic work that should be required for students of American cultural history."--Journal of American History

"Paul K. Conkin has produced a textbook for mainstream American Protestantism which will find its way into classrooms for years to come, and has set a standard of clarity and insight which it would behoove all American religious historians to emulate."--Reviews in American History

"Clear, balanced and richly informative, [the book] not only engages current scholarship but also offers fresh readings of the pivotal primary texts and contexts."--Christian Century

โ€œThe book is remarkably lucid and learned. It will influence us for a long time.โ€--Church History

"A learned, thoughtful synthesis by a major historian."--North Carolina Historical Review