An Analysis of Nineteenth Century Sunday School Books

Faculty Mentor(s)

Professor Laura McGrath, Library, Dr. Anne Heath, Art History; Dr. Curtis Gruenler, English

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The Sunday School Book genre has changed and developed throughout the centuries. In times when children of working class families received little to no schooling, these books provided an accessible source for education. During the nineteenth century, the goal of this genre was to equip its readers with a clear set of morals and values, providing even the minimally educated with a guide for how to live their lives. While few of these books became well known, and while few continue to be read and explored by audiences today, they provide monumental value in capturing, in one of the simplest (and most child-like) ways, the ideals of Protestantism throughout a century of consequential change. Michigan State University provides a collection of over 150 of these texts, all ranging in length, subject, and denominational affiliation. By visualizing our data on a Wordpress site, we are able to visually display our analysis of this collection, comparing and contrasting the information in our dataset with context brought by both religious and secular primary and secondary sources. Through this analysis, we are able to draw conclusions on how these books affected both the protestant and secular world. The argumentation of these novels, while simplistic, makes their values seem cut-and-dry. However, outside the world of Protestant Christianity, the world is clearly less black and white. But the presence of the rigid morals presented in the Protestant Sunday School books has a massive impact on the coexisting secular world.

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