David F. Holland, Scholar of American Religious History, Appointed to HDS Faculty

March 28, 2013
David F. Holland, Scholar of American Religious History, Appointed to HDS Faculty
David F. Holland

Renowned scholar of American religious history David F. Holland has been named Associate Professor of North American Religious History at Harvard Divinity School, effective July 1, 2013.

Holland is currently Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he teaches courses in American religious and intellectual history.

"I am thrilled that David Holland will join the HDS faculty this summer," said Dean David N. Hempton, who also served as chair of the Faculty Search Committee. 'He is particularly well-suited for HDS because he casts such a broad and inclusive net in understanding the deep intellectual, theological, and cultural currents driving New England Church history. His goal to democratize intellectual history is convincingly pursued through a series of projects in which the theological claims of marginal groups shed light on the central questions of American religious history.

"Moreover, his passion to equip students with the intellectual tools to take seriously the claim of any religious text or thinker makes him the ideal faculty member to bring together the concerns of the School's academic and ministerial studies, and to engage the pluralism of American religion."

Holland earned a BA in history from Brigham Young University and an MA and PhD from Stanford University. He is the author of numerous book reviews, journal articles, and review essays, including, "From Anne Hutchinson to Horace Bushnell: A New Take on the New England Sequence" (The New England Quarterly, 2005), and " 'A Mixed Construction of Subversion and Conversion': The Complicated Lives and Times of Religious Women" (Gender and History, 2010).

He is the author of Sacred Borders: Continuing Revelation and Canonical Restraint in Early America, published by Oxford University Press in 2011. In the book, Holland brings into dialogue a wide range of figures, from early Puritans through the Founding Fathers and revolutionary radicals to nineteenth-century Unitarians, Shakers, Mormons, Seventh-day Adventists, and others, including the African American visionary Rebecca Jackson and the seller of prophecies Nimrod Hughes.

Unlike most scholars at this stage in their careers, Holland does not shrink from broad synthesis. His new projects include a comparative biography of Mary Baker Eddy and Ellen White and a study of the legacy of Perry Miller.

"As someone who studies the evolutions of religious thought in early America," says Holland, "I've had to resist my own version of that famous line by Henry Fielding's Parson Thwackum: 'When I mention America, I mean Cambridge; and not only Cambridge, but Harvard; and not only Harvard, but the Divinity School.' I recognize the dangers of such myopia, but the fact is that for someone who studies what I study and teaches what I teach, there is no finer place.

"When I visited in January, and caught a glimpse of Dean Hempton's vision for HDS, and saw firsthand the sort of extraordinary community that the faculty and students have built and are continuing to build here, I knew I wanted to be a part of this."

—by Jonathan Beasley