Harvard Awards Gardner-Webb Professor Travel Grant

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History Professor Dr. Joseph Moore Recently Traveled to Ireland, United Kingdom Archives for Book Research

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C. – When Gardner-Webb University Assistant Professor of History Dr. Joseph Moore first began writing the manuscript for his new book, he had no idea that the subject would offer him an opportunity to travel halfway around the world to search historic archives in Belfast, Edinburgh, and London, or that the experience would extend to him a rare, full-circle moment in his own unique history.

(London/Westminster) The Jerusalem Chamber is the meeting room for the Westminster Confession of Faith, which briefly unified the religious practices of Scotland and England in the 1640s.

While working on his dissertation, Moore became interested in the Scottish “Covenanters,” a group of fundamentalist Presbyterians who vowed to maintain the Presbyterian doctrine and policy as the sole form of religion of their country. While the Covenanters were successful in establishing their form of Christianity in Scotland in the 1600s, their efforts to replicate those foundations in the newly formed United States were unsuccessful. Moore’s book, “The Failure to Found a Christian Nation: Covenanters and the American Republic,” traces the Covenanters’ political roots from Scotland to the New World.

“No one has ever written this history from its Scottish origins—where they founded a Christian Scotland in the 1600s—to their attempts to do that in England, and in America, and beyond,” Moore explained. “I wanted to write that history and tell their story.”

He applied for a travel grant from Harvard University’s International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World, and was awarded funds to travel to the United Kingdom to do research in archives in London, England and Edinburgh, Scotland. Gardner-Webb also assisted with funds to extend his visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he presented some of his research at a conference. The visit to Northern Ireland was especially meaningful to Moore, who had served in 2010 as a visiting research associate at Queens University Belfast prior to his appointment as assistant professor at Gardner-Webb.

(Edinburgh) The execution spot in Grassmarket Square where over 100 Covenanters were killed for refusing to swear loyalty to the king.

“I passed by the post office where I posted—from ‘Her Majesty’s Royal Mail’ service—my application to Gardner-Webb University,” he reflected.  “That was a special moment.”

He searched archives specifically for pictures and renderings of the Covenanters, and discovered they enjoyed political cartoons and commentary, much like today. “It’s amazing how much of history we forget—and how quickly,” Moore offered. “The Covenanters were very well-known in their own day, but are almost completely ignored today because the American separation of Church and State made their central issues irrelevant.  In Britain, Covenanters sparked wars to decide whose church would rule the land.  In the United States, no such option existed.  Here, their influence had to be much more subtle, so their arguments about God and government became imbedded into more popular arguments today associated with the Christian versus secular America debate.  They were easy to miss unless you went looking for them.”

(London/Westminster) Dr. Joseph Moore and his wife Mary Julia Moore at Westminster Abbey, where they were given a behind-the-scenes tour of the Jerusalem Chamber.

Since his trip, he has completed his book and submitted it to a publisher for consideration. He believes the project—and his previous visits to archives in London, Edinburgh, Belfast, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia—has also helped his students in both classroom and research opportunities.

“I learn from my students all the time when they go to archives or pull microfilm,” he shared. “They come to me with things I didn’t know existed, and it becomes a feedback loop between professors and students when it’s done right. You can do that at Gardner-Webb because there’s a small enough classroom size that students cease to be learners and they start to become junior scholars. That’s our goal, which makes for a great learning environment and sends them on to great things.”

“I am deeply grateful both to Gardner-Webb and the International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World for this wonderful opportunity,” Moore said.

Located in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb University blends a liberal arts core curriculum with more than 55 major and minor professional programs of study, a comprehensive academic experience that flows from our Christian commitment to intellectual freedom, service and leadership.