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Union University Dept of History

Department News




Pulitzer Prize-winning Historian Lectures at Union

Oct 26, 2010

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Daniel Walker Howe delivered two lectures at Union University on October 26 as a part of the Fourteenth Annual Carls-Schwerdfeger History Lectureship. Other activities he had that day included TV interviews, a visit to Casey Jones Village, and a special dinner.

More than 100 people attended Howe’s afternoon lecture, where he spoke on “What Hath God Wrought: Religion, Reform, and the Communications Revolution of Nineteenth-Century America.” In his presentation, Howe emphasized the importance of the communications revolution in the efforts of Protestant church leaders to expand public education to include girls, institute prison reform, fight against alcohol abuse, oppose slavery, and champion many other moral causes. Advances in communications and transportation also facilitated the work of evangelicals in spreading Christianity and Western civilization abroad.

In the evening, 700 people heard Professor Howe lecture about “What Hath God Wrought: Manifest Destiny and the Communications Revolution of Nineteenth-Century America.” Dr. Howe noted that improvements in communications and transportation aided the movement of Americans westward as a part of what many considered to be America’s Manifest Destiny. Better communications, for example, spread the news of the discovery of gold in California, and people, driven by the prospect of material gain, traveled there on recently developed ships known for their speed. Dr. Howe also indicated that Democratic Party leaders advocated the cause of Manifest Destiny, and first set their sights on Texas. While the annexation of Texas was being completed, President James K. Polk pushed to obtain California, a fact that contributed to America’s war with Mexico in the mid-1840s. Finally, Professor Howe stated that many Americans interpreted Manifest Destiny to be Providential Destiny, and that the U.S. would lead the world into a millennial age of peace and justice. These Americans were convinced that the newly discovered telegraph would play a pivotal role in achieving that end.

In both lectures, Professor Howe pointed out the impact that innovations in communications and transportation had on the transformation of America between 1815 and 1848. He described the United States of 1815 as a third world country, where many people lived on isolated farms and provided for their own food. By 1848, dramatic changes in communications and advances in transportation had liberated Americans from what Dr. Howe called “the tyranny of distance.” America was “a transcontinental major power by 1848.” Professor Howe also equated the impact that the telegraph had on its era to that which the internet has had on ours.

On the morning of October 26, Professor Howe visited Casey Jones Village with Dr. Stephen Carls, chair of the history department. They were the guests of the owners of the Village, Clark and Juanita Shaw. A tour of Brooks Shaw’s Old Country Store and the Historic Casey Jones’ Home and Railroad Museum at the Village was a highlight of Dr. Howe’s visit to Jackson.

Dr. Howe also enjoyed a dinner in his honor at Union University prior to his evening lecture. Guests asked him questions about nineteenth-century American history and his approach to writing about the past.


Historian Dr. Daniel Walker Howe enjoys some autumn decorations at Casey Jones Village in Jackson on the morning of October 26, 2010.


Mr. Clark Shaw (left), an owner of Casey Jones Village, and Dr. Daniel Howe enjoy a light moment together during a tour of Brooks Shaw’s Old Country Store on October 26.


Mr. Clark Shaw (left) and Dr. Daniel Howe on October 26 look at a telegraph machine and other equipment that once belonged to a railroad station master and that are now located in the Casey Jones Village railroad museum.


Dr. Daniel Howe (left) and Mr. Clark Shaw stand by a Rock Island Line railroad sign on October 26 at Casey Jones Village.


Local TV news commentator Mr. Steve Bowers (left) prepares to interview Dr. Daniel Walker Howe on the morning of October 26.


Jackson Channel 6 TV student reporter Elizabeth Waibel sits with Dr. Daniel Walker Howe while waiting to interview him on the station’s October 26 noontime news program.


Dr. Daniel Walker Howe delivers his lecture about “What Hath God Wrought: Religion, Reform, and the Communications Revolution of Nineteenth-Century America” on the afternoon of October 26 in Union’s Harvey Auditorium.


More than 100 people listen to Dr. Daniel Howe lecture on October 26 in Harvey Auditorium.


Dr. James Patterson, Professor of Church History, reads a handout from Dr. Daniel Howe during Dr. Howe’s October 26 lecture on religion, reform, and the nineteenth-century communications revolution in Harvey Auditorium.


Mr. Tim Ellsworth (center row, left) and Dr. Keith Bates (center row, second from left) peruse a handout from Dr. Daniel Howe, while Caitlin Roach (center row, second from right) and Dr. Judy LeForge (center row, right) take notes during Dr. Howe’s afternoon lecture on October 26.


Dr. Daniel Howe (standing) leads in singing “Happy Birthday” to Union University President Dr. David Dockery (to Dr. Howe’s left) at a special history lectureship dinner on October 26. Dr. Dockery’s birthday was officially on October 28.


Dr. Stephen Carls, history department chair, presents two books written and autographed by Dr. Daniel Howe to Dr. David Dockery during the history lectureship’s special dinner on October 26.


Dr. Stephen Carls gives two books authored and signed by Dr. David Dockery to Dr. Daniel Howe at the history lectureship dinner in honor of Dr. Howe on October 26.


Union University President Dr. David Dockery welcomes attendees to the Carls-Schwerdfeger History Lectureship on the evening of October 26.


History department chair Dr. Stephen Carls introduces Dr. Daniel Walker at the evening history lectureship on October 26.


Dr. Daniel Walker Howe presents his lecture about “What Hath God Wrought: Manifest Destiny and the Communications Revolution of Nineteenth-Century America” in the G. M. Savage Memorial Chapel on the evening of October 26, 2010.


A crowd of 700 people listens to Dr. Daniel Howe talk about Manifest Destiny and the nineteenth-century communications revolution on the evening of October 26.


Professors from Freed-Hardeman University, Rhodes College, Union University, and the University of Tennessee at Martin stand with Dr. Daniel Walker Howe following his evening lecture on October 26. They are: (front row) Dr. Alice-Catherine Carls of the University of Tennessee at Martin and Dr. Daniel Walker Howe of UCLA and Oxford University; (second row, left to right) Dr. Stephen Carls of Union University, and Dr. Michael LaRosa and Dr. Tim Huebner of Rhodes College; (back row, left to right) Dr. John Collins, Dr. Greg Massey, and Mr. Stephen Morris of Freed-Hardeman University.


Dr. Daniel Walker Howe autographs a copy of his What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 for Union history major Elizabeth Blevins.


Phi Alpha Theta History Honor Society students who ushered at the Carls-Schwerdfeger History Lecture on October 26 pose with history faculty members following Dr. Daniel Walker Howe’s evening lecture. Those in the photo are: (front row, left to right) Elaura Highfield, Caitlin Roach, Dr. Judy LeForge, Megan Winters, and Camille McCullar; (back row, left to right) Dr. Stephen Carls, Dr. David Thomas, and Savannah German.