Harvard Divinity School Dean David N. Hempton has been awarded the Albert C. Outler Prize by the American Society of Church History for his recent book, The Church in the Long Eighteenth Century (I.B. Tauris, 2011).
The award is presented to the author of the best monograph, biography, critical edition, or bibliography published in the two previous calendar years in ecumenical church history broadly conceived. "Ecumenical" includes topics relating to the quest for a fuller understanding or unity within Christianity or between Christianity and other religions. Previous winners of the prestigious Outler prize include Nathan Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (1988), Jon Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith (1989), and E. Brooks Holifield, Theology in America (2004).
Described by the prize committee as a work of "stunning scope and imagination," Hempton's book is a global history of early modern Christianity in its sophisticated national and social contexts. He relates the narrative of the Church to the spread of European empires, the enlightenment, and the rise of missions and religious enthusiasm pioneered by Counter Reformation Catholics, Pietists, Methodists, and Revivalists.
In a review by the Institute of Historical Research's Reviews in History, Jeremy Gregory, Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Manchester, writes that The Church in the Long Eighteenth Century "is the best, most authoritative, and most imaginative overview of the history of the world-wide Christian Church in the period between the late 17th and early 19th centuries we have to date. As the author of a number of powerful and seminal studies of British and global Methodism, of religion and popular culture, of religion and politics in Britain after 1688, and of Evangelicalism and its discontents, Hempton now turns his formidable intellectual range, methodological sophistication, grasp of detail, and creative turn of phrase, to what amounts to nothing less than an overall history of Christianity in the long 18th century."
David Hempton was appointed Dean of Harvard Divinity School in July 2012. Before joining the Faculty of Divinity in spring 2007, he was University Professor and Professor of the History of Christianity at Boston University, and prior to that appointment, he was Professor of Modern History and director of the School of History in the Queen's University of Belfast. He is a social historian of religion with particular expertise in populist traditions of evangelicalism in Europe, North America, and beyond.
According to its website, the central purpose of the American Society of Church History, an affiliate of the American Historical Association, is the scholarly study of the history of Christianity and its relationship to surrounding cultures in all periods, locations, and contexts. Through publications conferences, awards, research support, and other means, the Society encourages the study of the Christian church and faith, its figures and movements, in institutional and non-institutional settings.
—by Jonathan Beasley