The Historians Group is for those members of Collegium who produce scholarship about the history of liberal religion, notably, Unitarianism, Universalism, and Unitarian Universalism.

The current mascot for this group is Hannah Adams (1755-1831), an early American historian and pioneer in the field of comparative religion. Adams was also the first American author to make a living solely from writing and the first historian of religions ever to try to represent sects and denominations in terms which adherents themselves used and from their perspective. Her publications included:

  • An Alphabetical Compendium of the Various Sects Which Have Appeared from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Present Day, 1784, and its second edition retitled, A View of Religions, 1791;
  • A Summary History of New England, 1799;
  • An Abridgment of the History of New England, 1801;
  • The Truth and Excellence of the Christian Religion Exhibited, 1804;
  • History of the Jews, 1812;
  • A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations, 1817, and reprinted in 1992 with an introduction by Thomas Tweed; and
  • Letters on the Gospels, 1824.

The cover image is of Laura Towne (1825 – 1901) teaching students at the Penn Center, a school she founded in 1862, the first school for freed slaves in the United States.

5 Historians
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  • I am a assistant professor Historical Research, Narrative Research and Life Course History at the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht (The Netherlands) with a  keen interest in liberal religion and universalist history. In 2014 I published a biography (dissertation) on the life and work of the (radical) liberal church minister dr. Anne Mankes-Zernike (1887-1972) who was raised at the Free Congregation of Amsterdam (led by Ph. R. en P.H. Hugenholtz, half-brothers of F.W.N Hugenholtz who started the "Dutch Unitarian" church in Grand Rapids, US) and devoted the greater part of her fascinating life  to advocating radical liberal religion. 

    Currently I am working on an article concerning the history of the re-enchantement of (part of) liberal religion in The Netherlands (Title: 'Yes! All art is holy!').

  • AVERY (PETE) GUEST

    PORTLAND, OREGON

    I am a retired professor of sociology, University of Washington. I graduated from Oberlin College in 1963. Then, I received a master’s in journalism at Columbia in 1964, to be followed by a PhD in sociology at the University of Wisconsin in 1970. Most of my professional career at Washington involved teaching and research in a variety of topics, including statistics, population patterns, social inequality, race relations, and urban sociology.  I also published a few items on the sociology of religion.

    My involvement as a lay member of our denomination started in the early 1960s in a formerly Universalist Church in Kent, Ohio. Since then, I have been involved in several UU churches, but most prominently in Edmonds and Seattle, WA. I have tried to contribute to UU churches in a variety of roles, but with some emphasis on social justice issues.

    As I neared retirement, I became increasingly interested in studying the history of Unitarian Universalism, but with a special interest in Universalism. The study of Universalism especially attracted me for multiple reasons. First, I identify strongly with the basic Universalist notion that virtually all humans deserve respect and egalitarian treatment. The achievement of a Universalist society will be difficult but is incumbent in a world of increasing interaction across geographic borders. Second, I became quite interested in why the Universalist denomination grew so rapidly in the early to mid 1800s but then began a long-term continuing decline in membership until consolidation in 1961. What was the original social appeal of Universalism to Americans and why did this decline so dramatically? Third, I found the previous historic study of Universalism to be, frequently, inadequate from my professional sociological stance. Most of the research was descriptive rather than testing hypotheses about why trends in Universalism occurred. In addition, assertions were frequently made without much supporting evidence. Finally, studies of Universalism had made little use of the numerous documents that the Universalists created as a means of finding new adherents.

    Since joining Collegium in 2010, I have tried to produce one serious paper a year on Universalist history. I have also written a biography of early Universalist minister Stephen R. Rensselaer that appears in the Dictionary of UU Biography. The titles of my papers are listed below. The one on slavery appears in the 2015 volume of the Journal of Unitarian Universalist History, and I am working on revisions of others so they may be submitted for publication.

    At this point, I am uncertain on how to package all my continuing work on the history of Universalism. One possibility is a monograph on the history of Universalism in New York State, the site of much of my research. The other possibility is a more general monograph on aspects of the history of Universalism in America. There are a couple of major problems, however. One is that most Unitarian Universalists are interested in Unitarian, not Universalist, history. The other is that I am running out of time before I join Hosea Ballou in Universalist heaven (I was born in 1940).

    Previous Papers beyond Smith biography (Available upon Request):

    2015 (in process): “Revisiting the History of American Universalist Theology”

    2014: "Ministerial Careers in the 19th Century Among the Unitarians and Universalists."

    2013: "Hosea Ballou’s Other Family"

    2012: "Why a Liberal Religion Had So Much Trouble Being Liberal: The Universalists and the 1845 Antislavery Protest"

    2011: "The Decline of the Universalists: Big to Small or Small to Smaller?"

    2010:"In Search of a Loving God: Universalist Churches in New York, 1845-1918"

     

  • I am Arliss Ungar. I am a lay historian. I especially enjoy researching short papers on Unitarian ministers and lay leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area from about the time of the Civil War until the First World War.  Besides looking on line--where their writings are no longer under copyright, I enjoy going to the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley.

    My interest in Unitarian history began when I took a class at Starr King School for the Ministry from Rebecca Parker and did a term paper on Thomas Starr King.

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