Among the manuscripts that survive, there are several that together provide an interesting picture of the history of religion from the time of Christ through the Reformation in England and Europe and the evolution of religion in New England from the Pilgrims and the Puritans to William Ellery Channing and the emergence of Unitarianism and liberal religion.
There are three separate collections of manuscripts:
(1) Origins of Modern Religion, Modern Charity and Modern Labor Problems
(2) The Rise and Development of the Congregational Polity and Spirit in New England
(3) A Series of Biographical sketches of important 17th and 18th century Congregational preachers in New England.
These manuscripts are all hand written, and so can be dated prior to 1907 when Earl Davis started to type his manuscripts. Two of the collections, the “Rise and Development of the Congregational Polity and Spirit” collection and the collection that focuses on “Origins of Modern Religion, Modern Charity and Modern Labor Problems” can be pretty definitively dated to Earl Davis’ time in Pittsfield. Both include language about weekly Sunday meetings with their audience. The first lecture in the “Religion, Charity, Labor” series includes language that dates the manuscript to 1905. The third collection, a series of brief biographical sketches of important 17th and 18th century Congregational preachers in New England, is harder to date. These sketches could have been written while Earl Davis was a student at Harvard, or they could also contribute to his lessons on the history of the development of liberal religion in New England.
The three series do together provide a good view of Earl Davis’ interest in history, and specifically the history leading up to the rise of Unitarianism and liberal religion in the early 19th century. For that reason, I have grouped them all here among his Pittsfield papers.