Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
William J. Cooper, Jr
In antebellum and Civil War Louisiana, religious rituals contained more than spiritual meaning. They also carried social and political significance that can illustrate a great deal about that society. Sabbath services, holidays, revivals, baptisms, weddings, and funerals all reflected the values that Louisianans believed to be important. By looking at religion and the ways that residents of Louisiana experienced it, not only on a daily basis but also during the major milestones of life, one can come to a greater understanding of the ways in which they structured their society and interacted with it. Through an examination of Louisiana religion, one can easily discern the primary importance placed on family. Religious events reinforced family ties by bringing them together, not only for the major stages of life such as birth, marriage, and death, but also for regular church services and for special holidays scattered throughout the year. The opinions of members of the wider community were also considered significant. At the same time, Louisianians expected religious expression to conform to societal norms, and it taught people how they were expected to behave through the rituals in which they participated. These ceremonies showed men and women that their priorities and loyalties should lie primarily with their families while they also served to instruct citizens in the significance of the community and the need to secure society's approval in matters such as marriage, death, and at other important points in life. Finally, these events show the importance of religion to Louisiana society. Despite many protestations that the state's citizens were irreligious and preferred fun to worship, religion held a significant place in the state's culture, and society in general valued both the spiritual and the social and political aspects of religious rituals. No ceremony considered in this study carried a purely religious meaning, and participants recognized this fact. They accepted the larger implications that religious activity had for their lives. Throughout the antebellum period and the upheavals of the Civil War, religion and its ceremonies retained a central place in the experiences and actions of many men and women in Louisiana.
Nguyen, Julia Huston, "Worldly Rites: The Social and Political Significance of Religious Services in Louisiana, 1803--1865." (2001). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 302.