Bonds of Salvation: How Christianity Inspired and Limited American Abolitionism (LSU Press, 2020)
Ben Wright’s Bonds of Salvation demonstrates how religion structured the possibilities and limitations of American abolitionism. His work begins with the American Revolution and ends with the schisms in the three largest Protestant denominations that sent the nation down a path culminating in secession and civil war. Historians of antislavery tracing the evolution of the movement have emphasized status anxieties, market changes, biracial cooperation, and political maneuvering as primary forces. Wright instead foregrounds the pivotal role of religion in structuring the ideological possibilities of abolitionism. Americans fretted over the spiritual welfare of the new nation, but rather than purifying particular sins like slavery, they sought to save everyone. For even those Christians who hated slavery, the only sound more harrowing than the moans of a shackled slave were the wails of a damned soul. Wright’s provocative analysis reveals that visions of salvation both created and almost destroyed the American nation.
The American Yawp: A Massively Collaborative Open U.S. History Textbook (Stanford University Press, 2019).
Ben Wright, along with Joseph L. Locke, is co-editor of The American Yawp, a free and online, collaboratively built American history textbook. Wright has directed the work of over three hundred historians in producing this open educational resource which is now published online and in print by Stanford University Press.
Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era (LSU Press, 2013).
Ben Wright and Zachary W. Dresser co-edited this 2013 anthology published by LSU Press. In the Civil War era, Americans nearly unanimously accepted that humans battled in a cosmic contest between good and evil and that God was directing history toward its end. The concept of God’s Providence and of millennialism—Christian anticipations of the end of the world—dominated religious thought in the nineteenth century. During the tumultuous years immediately prior to, during, and after the war, these ideas took on a greater importance as Americans struggled with the unprecedented destruction and promise of the period.
The Abolition Seminar
Richard S. Newman and Ben Wright designed this interactive K-12 teaching resource based on Richard S. Newman's National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar for School Teachers hosted by the Library Company of Philadelphia.
Works in Progress
Empires of Souls: The United States, Britain, and West Africa
This monograph project explores how missionary understandings of West Africa informed the colonization of Sierra Leone and Liberia by Great Britain and the United States.
American Revolutions in the Digital Age
This anthology explores the intersections between the digital humanities and the early American republic. The book is under contract with Cornell University Press and co-edited by Mark Boonshoft, Nora Slonimsky, and Ben Wright.
Christians and Slavery from the Transatlantic Trade to Modern Human Trafficking
This public-facing trade book project explores the surprising continuities in how Christianity has both served as the most important cultural force in fighting human bondage and as an impediment to securing liberty for all.