Gaustad skillfully identifies Roger Williams, not just as the founder of Rhode Island and defender of religious freedom, but as a man of deep convictions who fought passionately to achieve and preserve liberty of conscience in America. This work provides an enlightening glimpse into one of history's most elusive figures.
Edwin Scott Gaustad (1923-2011) was one of the foremost historians of American religious history. In comments offered to the New York Times on the occasion of Gaustad's death, Martin E. Marty, professor emeritus at the University of Chicago, said, "Edwin Scott Gaustad has been for decades the premier historian of religious dissent in the United States, a scholar who set his biographical subjectsRoger Williams, Benjamin Franklin, and othersinto the context of the larger story well told in his pace-setting Religious History of America. He was also the atlas maker for two generations of Americans who wanted to fuse geographical and historical interests, as he himself did so well. His Faith of the Founders is much used in our time when it has become urgent to get an accurate reading on the story of religion in the national founding. He may have liked to tell the story of dissent, but one can only remember him as someone who gave assent to other scholars, audiences, and others who welcomed his generosity of spirit, andto the endhis smile. Generations of students knew him not only as a first-rate lecturer but also as a soul who will not soon be forgotten."
Gaustad's special interest was the colonial period, in particular the nature of American religious liberty, pluralism, and dissent. His books include The Great Awakening in New England, Historical Atlas of Religion in America, A Religious History of America, Dissent in American Religion, Baptist Piety: Last Will and Testament of Obadiah Holmes, George Berkeley in America, Documentary History of Religion in America, Faith of the Founders, Liberty of Conscience: Roger Williams in America, Sworn on the Altar of God: A Religious Biography of Thomas Jefferson, Church and State in America (for young adults), and Benjamin Franklin. He is also co-author with five other authors of the textbook Unto a Good Land: A History of the American People.
Gaustad was born on November 14, 1923, in Rowley, Iowa, but grew up in Houston, Texas. After serving