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"Pedlar in Divinity": George Whitefield and the Transatlantic Revivals, 1737-1770

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | "Pedlar in Divinity": George Whitefield and the Transatlantic Revivals, 1737-1770.pdf | Language: ENGLISH

A pioneer in the commercialization of religion, George Whitefield (1714-1770) is seen by many as the most powerful leader of the Great Awakening in America: through his passionate ministry he united local religious revivals into a national movement before there was a nation. An itinerant British preacher who spent much of his adult life in the American colonies, Whitefield was an immensely popular speaker. Crossing national boundaries and ignoring ecclesiastical controls, he preached outdoors or in public houses and guild halls. In London, crowds of more than thirty thousand gathered to hear him, and his audiences exceeded twenty thousand in Philadelphia and Boston. In this fresh interpretation of Whitefield and his age, Frank Lambert focuses not so much on the evangelist's oratorical skills as on the marketing techniques that he borrowed from his contemporaries in the commercial world. What emerges is a fascinating account of the birth of consumer culture in the eighteenth century, especially the new advertising methods available to those selling goods and services--or salvation.

Whitefield faced a problem similar to that of the new Atlantic merchants: how to reach an ever-expanding audience of anonymous strangers, most of whom he would never see face-to-face. To contact this mass "congregation," Whitefield exploited popular print, especially newspapers. In addition, he turned to a technique later imitated by other evangelists such as Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday, and Billy Graham: the deployment of advance publicity teams to advertise his coming presentations. Immersed in commerce themselves, Whitefield's auditors appropriated him as a well-publicized English import. He preached against the excesses and luxuries of the spreading consumer society, but he drew heavily on the new commercialism to explain his mission to himself and to his transatlantic audience.

A scholarly, easily written and felicitously documented account of Whitefeld's use of commercial methods . . . to promote missions to the masses. (David Martin Times Literary Supplement)More than any other work, Lambert's provides the foundation for a new understanding and appreciation of the life and times of Anglo-America's greatest evangelical revivalist. (American Historical Review) Frank Lambert is Associate Professor of History at Purdue University and the author of "Inventing the "Great Awakening"" (Princeton).

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Book details

  • PDF | 264 pages
  • Princeton University Press (November 18, 2002)
  • English
  • 2
  • History

Read online or download a free book: "Pedlar in Divinity": George Whitefield and the Transatlantic Revivals, 1737-1770


Review Text

  • By DMFederalist on July 10, 2016

    Great book. I ordered for my MA research on the Great Awakening and the American Revolution.

  • By tootsie on December 7, 2011

    This was such a wonderful book . I know I will read it many times throughout my life because it was such an entertaining and interesting book to me. What a big secret this fine fellow from the small town of Gloucester, England made. He was so brave to stand up for the rights of all of us to have freedom of Religion from the old Church of England. What a difference the man made for the improvement of the quality of life for Americans and people in other countries around the world. I really loved this book; it was such a great find!

  • By Guest on March 26, 2016

    Good read.

  • By Jerome D. Mahaffey on April 7, 2000

    Frank Lambert's book Pedlar in Divinity: George Whitefield and the Transatlantic Revivals, constitutes an extensive inquiry into how Whitefield "and his associates organized, publicized, and funded the revivals" of the Great Awakening (p. 7). Lambert wants to learn "how Whitefield exploited demand for 'experimental religion,'" which he defined as a faith expressed in a "conversion experience" as opposed to a "subscription to a particular creed" (p. 7). His study augments the nascent ideas of Whitefield's business sense noticed by Harry Stout, greatly expanding them, explaining where Whitefield obtained his marketing saavy, and giving specific examples of how he employed it. In addition to Whitefield's character and dramatic ability, Lambert argues that Whitefield's "innovative use of print to publicize, deliver, and reinforce the gospel" allowed him to generate public interest for his meetings. Lambert explains that Whitefield faced a problem of disseminating his message to an "ever-expanding audience of anonymous strangers, most of he could not reach face-to-face" (p. 3). Whitefield's employment of merchandising techniques distinguished him from his ministerial mentors and contemporaries. Lambert explores Whitefield's relationships with printers and propagandists and his employment of the press through public conflict intended to make news.Lambert's approach to Whitefield inherently reflects a traditional disdain for sophism, in this case manifest through merchandising and advertising. Lambert analyzes every aspect of Whitefield's enterprise through a lens of suspicion, interpreting his actions in terms of exploitation and self-promotion. His interpretation and perspective are not without warrant. Chapter 4 is sophisticated and insightful, analyzing the interpretive task taken up by Whitefield's audience as they received his message and complicitly adapted it to their own personal circumstances. A fundamental claim Lambert makes is that a "public sphere" emerged for the first time in American history, constituted through the medium of print as Awakening supporters and opponents debated and critiqued the revivals and each other. Lambert maintains that the rise of this public sphere links the Great Awakening to the American revolution "as evangelical experiences with Anglican arbitrariness reinforced fears of imperial tyranny" (p. 10). Lambert's emphasis on print as the central medium for this public sphere contrasts with the theses of Heimert, Stout, Looby and Fliegleman who insist that the oral medium was more critical. Chapters 2 and 3 are especially insightful and well researched. Lambert's claims about the rise of the print industry, public sphere and how Whitefield effectively and ingeniously used these tools are well supported with textual evidence and well written. Lambert displays a depth of research that illuminates the rise of the print industry as it emerged in the context of colonial America and the Great Awakening. In addition, Chapter 6 boldly places Whitefield in context to the emerging American nation in general positing Whitefield as an essential element necessary to the revolution. The work is a must for any serious Great Awakening or Whitefield scholar-not to mention scholars of American History.

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