How The First Great Awakening Changed America


RESEARCH PAPER TOPIC: How did the First Great Awakening change America?

Research Paper: Students are required to write a 10-12 page research paper on one of the topics from the list posted in Blackboard.

Your paper must be typed, double-spaced, with one-inch margins, and written in a 10 or 12-point font. Otherwise, it will not be accepted.


PAPERS. Papers must be based on research in primary sources, and should demonstrate your familiarity with scholarly secondary sources. Your paper must use at least two primary sources and five secondary sources (with at least three of your secondary sources being books, the remaining two can be scholarly articles). This is the MINIMUM number of sources.

As I expect students want more than the minimum passing grade, it is okay if you wish to use

additional sources. You may not use any internet sources unless they are approved in writing by the professor beforehand, and internet sources will not count towards the required two primary and five secondary sources.

All papers must have a bibliography, and must be thoroughly documented with either footnotes or endnotes. Follow the format given in Turabian’s guide. If you do not have Kate Turabian’s Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations ( Univ. of

Chicago Press ), you should invest in a copy. Your paper will not be accepted if you fail to follow these guidelines.


                     How The First Great Awakening Changed America

The First Great Awakening was a protestant revival in the American colonies that took place from the 1730s to 1770s[1]. The power of this Awakening was based on its different reformed revival foundations, while its primary progenitors’ theology, specifically George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards, was deeply influenced by Calvinism. The messages that both Whitefield and Edwards preached to the people in the colonies were heavily influenced by Reformed principles. Although the two progenitors had different styles of communicating to the people, their alignments brought homogeny into the revival, particularly the emphasis on the providential direction of spreading the gospel and increasing freedom in the church to expand the Kingdom of God. As reformers like Edwards and Whitefield sowed the seed of revival in the American colonies, this became the root of Reformed theology and great revivals in America. According to Noll, “the Great Awakening…was Americans first truly national event…the revivals…served as something of a melting pot, giving immigrant communities more contact with other colonists. The process that would lead to European immigrants identifying themselves as Americans’ had begun”[2]. Additionally, other theories such as the “Doctrine of Lesser Magistrate” were introduced into the reformed ideologies in the colonies. The First Great Awakening’s generation could not perceive how the ideologies would change the course of American history forever, but the movement largely influenced attention and focus to God in America, its government, and law. Thus, this paper will discuss how the revival, though initially aiming for a religious movement, brought about changes that echoed throughout American society, culture, and politics.

                                          Religious Pluralism

The First Great Awakening, especially its push for religious liberty initiated religious pluralism in America, which significantly encouraged the already existing revolutionary course. There was a stagnation of spirituality in England, but the case was different in American colonies, which became more pluralistic. Throughout the colonies, churches routinely spitted, thus increasingly reducing religious uniformity[3]. As a result, there was no single domination that could be mentioned or viewed as the primary religion or have the ability to dominate over others. As long as the colonists did not revert back to slothfulness, their religious climate would continue to grow in a pluralistic environment. The religious zeal from the movement became the roots of Revolution, self-governance, and independence.

[1] Noll, Mark A. A history of Christianity in the United States and Canada. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1992. (p. 76).

[2] Noll, Mark A. A history of Christianity in the United States and Canada, (pp. 110-111).

[3] Kidd, Thomas S. The Great Awakening: the roots of evangelical Christianity in colonial America. Yale University Press, 2008, (p. 288).

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