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Unitarian History Book Shelf

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The following list of books are suggested by the AUC and many are available via the Associates Program.  Each purchase you make via the links on this website earns a percentage for the AUC as long as you access the website via the links on the AUC website.  This list is broken up into topical sections, just click on the category link below.  Click on the underlined title to go to the entry for more information and to order.  Your order will be through, not the AUC.

Unitarian History

Stream of Light : A Short History of American Unitarianism - Conrad Wright


The Unitarians and the Universalists - David Robinson
A narrative text, an extensive series of biographical sketches, and a comprehensive bibliographical essay, thus recommending itself as an essential part of any reference collection. The narrative itself is a very able analysis of the intellectual and theological development of Unitarianism and Universalism in America. What it does, it does extremely well, and is highly recommended as a reference tool and a contribution to the history of American religious thought.


Unitarianism in America: A History of Its Origin and Development - George Willis Cooke

George Willis Cooke (1848-1923), born in Comstock, Michigan, was a Unitarian minister, writer, editor, and lecturer best known now for his landmark history of the Unitarian movement in the 19th century and for his work on transcendentalist writers and publications. This book, first published in 1902, was the standard work on 19th century Unitarianism for some time and is still the major source of information on Unitarian developments in the early decades after the Unitarian controversy.

Epic of Unitarianism - David Parke

An American Reformation : A Documentary History of Unitarian Christianity [Click for larger image]

An American Reformation: A Documentary History of Unitarian Christianity - Sydney E. Ahlstrom (editor), Jonathan Sinclair Carey
The work discusses the rise, apogee and redirection of American Unitarian thought and its Trinitarian brethren. It includes Sermons by many leading Unitarian ministers.


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The Elements of Unitarianism - George Chryssides

Unitarian Universalism: A Narrative History - David E. Bumbaugh 

The Benevolent Deity: Ebenezer Gay and the Rise of Rational Religion in New England, 1696-1787 - Robert J. Wilson III

An account of the struggle between proponents of Calvinism and the champions of Christian liberty in 18th century New England, which set the stage for American Unitarianism.

American Unitarianism, 1805-1865 - Conrad Edick Wright (editor)


Unitarianism in the Antebellum South: The Other Invisible Institution - John Allen MacAulay

Christology in American Unitarianism - Prescott Browning Wintersteen

An anthology of outstanding nineteenth and twentieth century Unitarian theologians, with commentary and historical background.

Unitarian Radicalism: Political Impact, 1770-1814 - Stuart Andrews

The English Unitarian confrontation with the late 18th century political establishment is reflected in published sermons, pamphlets, and parliamentary debates. Price and Priestley were only the most notorious members of a well-educated, close-knit, and highly articulate intellectual opposition, all the more formidable for dominating the major literary reviews. Focusing on many lesser-known dissenting polemicists, this study uncovers unexpected continuities in Unitarian critiques of government policies and questions whether Burke was justified in equating antitrinitarians with French republicans.


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The Enlightenment of Joseph Priestley: A Study of his Life and Work from 1733 to 1773 - Robert E. Schofield

Joseph Priestley was a Unitarian minister and inventor who came to colonial America after he fled England when his chapel and office was burned out of religious persecution. 


Transient and Permanent: The Transcendentalist Movement and Its Contexts - C. Capper and C.E. Wright (editors)

Comprising twenty essays by leading scholars, this insightful collection provides the best recent writing on the Transcendentalists, the New England religious reformers and intellectuals who challenged both spiritual and secular orthodoxies between the 1830s and the 1850s. The volume addresses Transcendentalism from many directions, illuminating the movement more clearly than ever before. The contributions consider aspects of the relationship between the Transcendentalists and their intellectual and social world, assess the movement's cultural legacy, and place Transcendentalism in the context of historical and literary scholarship, past and present.


American Heretic: Theodore Parker and Transcendentalism - Dean Grodzins

Dean Grodzins offers a compelling account of the remarkable first phase of Parker's career, when this complex man--charismatic yet awkward, brave yet insecure--rose from poverty and obscurity to fame and notoriety as a Transcendentalist prophet. Grodzins reveals hitherto hidden facets of Parker's life, including his love for a woman who was not his wife, and presents fresh perspectives on Transcendentalism. Grodzins explores Transcendentalism's religious roots, shows the profound religious and political issues at stake in the "Transcendentalist controversy," and offers new insights into Parker's Transcendentalist colleagues, including Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Bronson Alcott. He traces, too, the intellectual origins of Parker's epochal definition of democracy as government of, by, and for the people.


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Theodore Parker: Orator of Superior Ideas - David B. Chesebrough

As a volume in the Great American Orators series, the focus is on Parker's oratory and its effect upon theology and the social structures of the mid-19th century. Biographical information pertains to those aspects of Parker's life that influenced and shaped his elocution and ideas. Parker's rhetoric and rhetorical techniques are examined. Three of Parker's important speeches are included, each with an introduction that places it in its proper context.

Frederic Henry Hedge: Nineteenth Century American Transcendentalist : Intellectually Radical Ecclesiastically Conservative (Pittsburgh Theological Monographs, New Ser. 16) Frederic Henry Hedge: Nineteenth Century American Transcendentalist: Intellectually Radical, Ecclesiastically Conservative - Bryan F. Le Beau

The Early Feminists: Radical Unitarians and the Emergence of the Women’s Rights Movements, 1831-51 - Kathryn Gleadle 

Yesterday’s Radicals: A Study of the Affinity Between Unitarianism and Broad Church Anglicanism in the Nineteenth Century - Dennis G. Wigmore-Beddoes

Defining "yesterday's radicals" as 19th-century Anglican Broad Churchmen and Unitarians, this text shows how they influenced each other over issues such as biblical criticism and inspiration. It shows the affinity between them, as they tried to grapple with the problems of their day. The author takes the reader through the ramifications and complexities of biblical criticism, and discusses the answers given to the problems of biblical inspiration, miracles and other subjects. He shows how Unitarians and Broad Churchmen influenced each other, and reveals that much which is now taken for granted in enlightened theological circles was developed by yesterday's radicals. The study was awarded the Earl Morse Wilbur Prize for Historical Research. 


American Religious History

America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln - Mark A. Noll

Vividly set in the social and political events of the age, America's God is replete with the figures who made up the early American intellectual landscape, from theologians such as Jonathan Edwards, Nathaniel W. Taylor, William Ellery Channing, and Charles Hodge and religiously inspired writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Catherine Stowe to dominant political leaders of the day like Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.

The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Religion 1805-1900 - Gary Dorrien

As the first entry in a projected three-volume series on American liberal Christianity, this masterfully written work offers a biographical narrative of the 19th-century figures who, while influenced by English and German ideas, shaped an indigenous theology. Writers such as William E. Channing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Horace Bushnell, Henry Ward Beecher, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Charles Briggs, and Borden Parker Bowne are all featured here.

The Universalist Movement in America, 1770-1880 - Ann Lee Bressler



World Religions & Comparative Religion

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Forgotten Truth: The Common Vision of the World's Religions - by Huston Smith

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The Varieties of Religious Experience - by William James

When William James went to the University of Edinburgh in 1901 to deliver a series of lectures on "natural religion," he defined religion as "the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude, so far as they apprehend themselves to stand in relation to whatever they may consider the divine." Considering religion, then, not as it is defined by--or takes place in--the churches, but as it is felt in everyday life, he undertook a project that, upon completion, stands not only as one of the most important texts on psychology ever written, not only as a vitally serious contemplation of spirituality, but for many critics one of the best works of nonfiction written in the 20th century. Reading The Varieties of Religious Experience, it is easy to see why. Applying his analytic clarity to religious accounts from a variety of sources, James elaborates a pluralistic framework in which "the divine can mean no single quality, it must mean a group of qualities, by being champions of which in alternation, different men may all find worthy missions." It's an intellectual call for serious religious tolerance--indeed, respect--the vitality of which has not diminished through the subsequent decades.


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The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion - by Mircea Eliade, Willard Trask (Translator)

Eliade's extensive studies in comparative religion penetrates to the core of the human condition, our existence and constant search for meaning. This is a great book to open dialogue about the nature of religion, it's development, and evolution.


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The Power of Myth (Illustrated Edition) - by Joseph Campbell, Bill Moyers (Contributor), Betty Sue Flowers (Editor)

Among his many gifts, Joseph Campbell's most impressive was the unique ability to take a contemporary situation, such as the murder and funeral of President John F. Kennedy, and help us understand its impact in the context of ancient mythology. Herein lies the power of The Power of Myth, showing how humans are apt to create and live out the themes of mythology. Based on a six-part PBS television series hosted by Bill Moyers, this classic is especially compelling because of its engaging question-and-answer format, creating an easy, conversational approach to complicated and esoteric topics.


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The History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam - by Karen Armstrong
Armstrong, a British journalist and former nun, guides us along one of the most elusive and fascinating quests of all time--the search for God. Like all beloved historians, Armstrong entertains us with deft storytelling, astounding research, and makes us feel a greater appreciation for the present because we better understand our past. Be warned: A History of God is not a tidy linear history. Rather, we learn that the definition of God is constantly being repeated, altered, discarded, and resurrected through the ages, responding to its followers' practical concerns rather than to mystical mandates. Armstrong also shows us how Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have overlapped and influenced one another, gently challenging the secularist history of each of these religions. --Gail Hudson of


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The Battle for God - by Karen Armstrong
About 40 years ago popular opinion assumed that religion would become a weaker force and people would certainly become less zealous as the world became more modern and morals more relaxed. But the opposite has proven true, according to theologian and author Karen Armstrong, who documents how fundamentalism has taken root and grown in many of the world's major religions, such as Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. Even Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism have developed fundamentalist factions. Reacting to a technologically driven world with liberal Western values, fundamentalists have not only increased in numbers, they have become more desperate, claims Armstrong, who points to the Oklahoma City bombing, violent anti-abortion crusades, and the assassination of President Yitzak Rabin as evidence of dangerous extremes.

Yet she also acknowledges the irony of how fundamentalism and Western materialism seem to urge each other on to greater excesses. To "prevent an escalation of the conflict, we must try and understand the pain and perception of the other side," she pleads. With her gift for clear, engaging writing and her integrity as a thorough researcher, Armstrong delivers a powerful discussion of a globally heated issue. Part history lesson, part wake-up call, and mostly a plea for healing, Armstrong's writing continues to offer a religious mirror and a cultural vision. --Gail Hudson of


The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization - by Marshall G. S. Hodgson. Paperback (February 1977)

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Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization: The Expansion of Islam in the Middle Periods  - by Marshall G. Hodgson. Paperback (February 1977)

The Venture of Islam : The Gunpowder Empire and Modern Times - by Marshall G. Hodgson. Paperback (March 1977)

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The Mystics of Islam - by Reynold Alleyne Nicholson



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