In the Image of God


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Religion, Moral Values, and Our Heritage of Slavery

David Brion Davis

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In this broad-ranging book, the pre-eminent authority on the history of slavery meditates on the origins, experience, and legacy of this “peculiar institution.” David Brion Davis begins with a substantial and highly personal introduction in which he discusses some of the major ideas and individuals that have shaped his approach to history. He then presents a series of interlocking essays that cover topics including slave resistance, the historical construction of race, and the connections between the abolitionist movement and the struggle for women’s rights. The book also includes essays on such major figures as Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as appreciations of two of the finest historians of the twentieth century: C. Vann Woodward and Eugene D. Genovese.

Gathered together for the first time, these essays present the major intellectual, historical, and moral issues essential to the study of New World slavery and its devastating legacy.

David Brion Davis is Sterling Professor of History at Yale University and director of Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. His previous books include The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, which won a National Book Award and the Bancroft Prize, and The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture which won a Pulitzer Prize.

“An engaging introduction to historians concerned with ‘our heritage of slavery.’. . . [Davis] relentlessly resists simplification and maintains a global perspective, but his insistence on complexity doesn’t make his work inaccessible. He proves a worthy guide for walking through the labyrinth with open eyes.”—Booklist

“Davis [is a] distinguished American historian . . . [whose] erudition is correspondingly impressive. . . . The twenty-six separate essays of In the Image of God show that Davis is exceedingly learned and sophisticated in his review of a wide variety of books, most of which deal with slavery and its abolition. His own analysis of how religious ideas intertwined with self-interest and other sensibilities to allow Abolitionists to prevail seems masterly to me.”—William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books

“The strength of Davis’s new book . . . is not merely the accuracy of its data but its witness to the terrible continuity between historic and contemporary practices of slavery. . . . Davis has amassed a wealth of information not only on the details of the everyday lives of slaves but also on the vast, interlocking systems of finance, commerce, geopolitics, agriculture, religion, and philosophy in which North American slavery occupied a late but significant place. . . . With its combination of uncompromising accuracy and heartfelt compassion, Davis’s book witnesses to the possibility of a saner and more balanced method of addressing the problems of history.”—Richard Lischer, Books & Culture

“Few contemporary scholars have produced as extensive and as thoughtful a body of work on slavery in human history as David Brion Davis. . . . In The Image of God is a magisterial work that synthesizes his intellectual pursuits to reckon with slavery, its manifestations, and larger meaning in the human condition. . . . Students of historiography will find a rich field in this thoughtful prose.”—History: Reviews of New Books

"David Brion Davis indisputably ranks among the foremost experts on the meaning in our history of slavery, and especially of antislavery. . . . So vast and global has been his reach, so widely read has been his work, that it would be difficult to overestimate the importance of his writings on a set of topics that surely remains at the heart of our richest and sometimes most bitter cultural debates. The essays in this book . . . are alive with controversies over race and history in the United States. They should be essential reading for any layperson seeking a solid historical background on race, slavery, and reform in American or even in world history. No high-school history teacher can afford to miss these essays. . . . Professors in survey courses will find material here to correct and revitalize yellowing lecture notes or to assign to undergraduates for discussion."—Stewart Winger, Journal of Illinois History

“An insightful and well-connected narrative. . . . In the Image of God provides an engaging and personal analysis of recent scholarly trends Davis helped to shape, and the ways these trends have moved beyond the Academy into popular discourse. . . . Davis persuasively demonstrates how religion was instrumental in forging an American moral philosophy that viewed slavery and segregation as sinful, supporting a philosophy that attacked the social injustices these institutions perpetuated.”—W. Bryan Rommel-Ruiz, Religious Studies Review

“The pieces are elegantly written, sparkle with insight, and provide a captivating look into the intellectual development of a seasoned and influential scholar.”—Douglas R. Egerton, Journal of Southern History
ISBN: 9780300088144
Publication Date: December 11, 2001
400 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
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