When American Methodist preachers first arrived to Upper Canada they brought more than a contagious religious faith. They also brought saddlebags stuffed with books published by the New York Methodist Book Concern – North America’s first denominational publisher – to sell along their preaching circuits. Pulpit, Press, and Politics traces the expansion of this remarkable transnational market from its earliest days to the mid-nineteenth century during a period of intense religious struggle in Upper Canada marked by fiery revivals, political betrayals, and bitter church schisms.
The Methodist Book Concern occupied a central place in all this conflict as it powerfully shaped and subverted the religious and political identities of Canadian Methodists, bankrolled the bulk of Methodist preaching and missionary activities, enabled and constrained evangelistic efforts among the colony’s Native groups, and clouded Methodist dealings with the British Wesleyans and other religious competitors north of the border. Even more importantly, as Methodists went on to assume a preeminent place in the province’s religious, cultural, and educational life, their ongoing reliance on the Methodist Book Concern played a crucial part in opening the way for what would later become the lasting acceptance and widespread use of American books and periodicals across the province as a whole.