The Top Adventist History BooksJanuary 3, 2007
Note that here I’m referring to Adventist in the broadest sense–not as shorthand for Seventh-day Adventist.
Over at the blog: Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub – History, accuracy and education there was a recent post titled “Nominations for top history books”. This got me thinking–what are the top Adventist history books?
Here’s my list (completely personal, limited to English language works, & heavily skewed toward my own interests of Millerism) in no particular order:
- George R. Knight, Millennial Fever and the End of the World. (Boise, ID: Pacific Press), 1993. A well-written, interesting, generally well-referenced account of the Millerites & the formation of the SDA Church.
- Gary Land, (ed.) Adventism in America. Rev. ed. (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press), 1998. Unfortunately limited in its focus to the US, it is the best overall history of the SDA church. Suffers from having no content more recent than c1980.
- Ronald L. Numbers and Jonathan M. Butler, (eds.) The Disappointed: Millerism and Millenarianism in the Nineteenth Century. (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press), 1993.
- Ronald L. Numbers, Prophetess of Health: Ellen G. White and the Origins of Seventh-Day Adventist Health Reform. Rev. ed. (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press), 1992. Whether you agree with Numbers’ thesis or not, the book is a serious attempt at placing Ellen G. White in her historical and cultural context.
- David L. Rowe, Thunder and Trumpets: Millerites and Dissenting Religion in Upstate New York, 1800-1850. (Chico, CA: Scholars Press), 1985.
- Whitney R. Cross, The Burned-over District: A Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press), 1950. [Reprinted in 2006.]
- Edwin S. Gaustad, (ed.) The Rise of Adventism: Religion and Society in Mid-nineteenth-century America. (New York, NY: Harper and Row), 1974.
- Laura L. Vance, Seventh-day Adventism in Crisis: Gender and Sectarian Change in an Emerging Religion. (Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press), 1999.
- Douglas Morgan. Adventism and the American Republic. (Knoxville, TN: University of Tennessee Press), 2001.
- Ruth Alden Doan, The Miller Heresy, Millennialism, and American Culture. (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press), 1987.
- Malcolm Bull and Keith Lockhart, Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-Day Adventism and the American Dream. (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row), 1989. [Second edition released in 2006 by Indiana University Press.] Perhaps more sociological than historical, nevertheless, its one of the most important books on the SDA church.
- Clyde E. Hewitt, Midnight and Morning. (Charlotte, NC: Venture Books), 1983. The first of a three volume set outlining the history of the Advent Christian Church–another denomination that emerged from the Millerites. Worth reading just for its non-Seventh-day adventist focus. The other two volumes are: Responsibility and Response, (1986), and Devotion and Development (1990).
- Alven Makapela, The Problem with Africanity in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. (Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press), 1996. One of the few books that covers the history of the SDA church in Africa and looks seriously at race within the SDA church. Could have benefitted from further editing.
- Sylvester Bliss, Memoirs of William Miller. (Boston, MT: Joshua V. Himes), 1853. Despite its age, still the best biography of William Miller. [Reprinted by Andrews University Press in 2005; with an new introduction by Merlin D. Bert; as part of their excellent Adventist Classic Library.]
- I. F. du Preez and R. H. du Pre, A Century of Good Hope: A History of the Good Hope Conference, its Educational Institutions and Early workers, 1893-1993. (East London: Western Research Group/Southern History Association), 1994. A somewhat idiosyncratic account of the SDA church’s work in the South African Good Hope Conference – the “coloured” conference. One of the few sources of African SDA history.
- Everett N. Dick. William Miller and the Advent Crisis. (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press), 1994. Dick’s manuscript (based on his doctoral thesis completed in 1930) was to be published by Union College when the General Conference (through the personal intervention of LeRoy Edwin Froom) successfully convinced the college not to proceed. Dick’s study was the first to extensively examine the original Millerite sources and despite its age is a valuable work–and a reminder of the dangers of censorship.
- Lowell Tarling, The Edges of Seventh-Day Adventism: A Study of Separatist Groups Emerging from the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (1844-1980). (Barragga Bay, Australia: Galilee), 1981. A fascinating survey of one of the neglected aspects of SDA history. It’s by an Australian–so it must be good! We could do with a second edition that covers the last 25 years.
- Isaac Wellcome, History of the Second Advent Message, (Boston, MT: Advent Christian Publication Society), 1874. Despite its age, an excellent account of the Millerites & the early Adventists. Like Hewitt’s books (above), it’s written from an Advent Christian perspective. Especially important is Wellcome’s emphasis on the key roles women played in these movements–most later historians of Adventism have neglected them.
- Josephine Benton, Called by God, (Smithsburg, MD: Blackberry Hill), 1990. Important coverage of a neglected aspect of Adventist history–the role of women ministers. Available online here.
- Bruinsma, Reinder. Seventh-day Adventist Attitudes Toward Roman Catholicism 1844-1965. Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1994. Excellent survey of the topic.
- King, Christine Elizabeth. The Nazi State and the New Religions: Five Case Studies in Non-conformity. Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: The Edward Mellon Press, 1982. Contains a chapter on the SDA Church in Nazi Germany.
- Dunton, Hugh, (ed.) Heirs of the Reformation: The Story of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Europe. (Grantham: Stanborough Press), 1997. A valuable though patchy account of the history of the SDA church in Europe.
- Richard W. Schwarz, Light Bearers to the Remnant (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press), 1979. [Revised edition published as: Light Bearers: a history of the Seventh-day Adventist church by Richard W. Schwarz, & Floyd Greenleaf (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press), 2000.] I know it’s the standard textbook, but it just doesn’t excite me. (Confession time–I don’t even own a copy.) It does at least make some attempt to view SDAism as a global phenomenon.
Books that I have not yet read, but am looking forward to:
- R. Clifford Jones, James K. Humphrey and the Sabbath-day Adventists. (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi), 2006.
- Catherine A. Brekus, Strangers and Pilgrims – Female Preaching in America, 1740-1845 (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press), 1998. Contains a chapter on female Millerite preachers.
- Eva Keller, The Road to Clarity: Seventh-day Adventism in Madagascar. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), 2005. I have not read this book, but I have read her paper: “Towards Complete Clarity: Bible Study among Seventh-Day Adventists in Madagascar.” Ethnos 69, no. 1 (2004): 89-112. In some ways it’s more a sociological work than a historical one but it gives some interesting insights into the SDA church in Madagascar.
- Stefan Hoschele, From the End of the World to the Ends of the Earth: The Development of Seventh-Day Adventist Missiology, (Nurnberg, Germany: Verlag fur Theologie und Religionswissenschaft), 2004.
Fellow Australian, Arthur Patrick has an interesting paper “Historians of Adventism: Their Agony, Ecstasy, and Potential” online here. It’s worth checking out, though needs updating.
- On a final note, probably the most powerful history book I have ever read is Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners – Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (New York : Knopf), 1996. Goldhagen writes brilliantly and I found his thesis compelling. Everyone should read this book!
I’m interested in your thoughts.