William Warren Sweet
1881-1959. Methodist scholar. Born in Baldwin, Kansas, he was educated at Ohio Wesleyan University, Drew Theological Seminary, and Crozer Theological Seminary. After five years in the ministry he earned a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania; his dissertation, published as The Methodist Episcopal Church and the Civil War (1912), initiated that prolific publication that was to make him “the dean of the historians of Christianity in America.” He taught at Ohio Wesleyan (1911-13), DePauw University (1913-27), and the Divinity School of the University of Chicago (1927-46). His fundamental concern was to give such a reputation to church history that secular historians could no longer ignore its role. He influenced both the writing of general American history by calling attention to those often neglected “civilizing and cultural forces” of religion, and that of denominational histories by broadening individual examples to see their place within the total development of America and its peculiar form of Christianity. His many works include Religion on the American Frontier (1931-46), The Story of Religion in America (1930; 2nd rev. ed., 1950), and Religion in Colonial America (1942).