History faculty

Douglas Firth Anderson, Ph.D.

Professor of History

Ph.D., Graduate Theological Union
M.L.S., University of California, Berkeley
B.A., University of California, Berkeley

VPH 212


Dr. Anderson specializes in the history of the American West and American religious history. He earned a doctorate in the latter subject and spent a year studying at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming. He is co-author of Pilgrim Progression: The Protestant Experience in California, and his articles and book reviews have been published in Western Historical Quarterly, Religion and American Culture, and Fides et Historia, as well as in encyclopedias of the Great Plains and American West. He has also teamed with other religion scholars on a comprehensive and comparative study of the impact regions have on religion’s role in American public life, which resulted in eight geographically based books.


  • Western Civilization to 1789

    Western Civilization to 1789

    This course acquaints students with the major periods and contours of Western Civilization from its roots in the ancient Near East through its development in the 18th century Enlightenment. Among the topics treated are the medieval centuries and the eras of the Renaissance and the Reformation.(4 credits)
  • Issues in Western Civilization from 1789

    Issues in Western Civilization from 1789

    The sections of this companion course to HIS101 provide students with thematic investigations of issues prominent in Western Civilization since the 18th century (e.g., political, intellectual, popular culture, technological, military, colonial/imperial, racial/ethnic, gender, environmental, etc.).Prerequisite: HIS101.(2 credits)
  • Issues in Cross-Cultural History

    Issues in Cross-Cultural History

  • Issues in American History

    Issues in American History

    A topical and selective study in American history providing the opportunity to focus on a particular era or issue important to the understanding of the American past. Topics will vary according to professor and student interest. Sample topics have included Cold War America, The Sixties, and History of American Women.Prerequisite: HIS101.(2 credits)
  • Tribes, Trolleys and Tractors: Themes in Iowa's History

    Tribes, Trolleys and Tractors: Themes in Iowa's History

    Through a study of the historical development of the varied peoples who have lived in Iowa, and through consideration of the impact the people of Iowa have had on each other (social and cultural environment) and on the land (natural environment), this course seeks to engage in place-based education. In light of a postmodern world in which place matters little, a historical understanding of Iowa--social, cultural and environmental--will contribute to providing connections to a place. (2 credits, alternate years, consult department)
  • American Indian Societies and Cultures

    American Indian Societies and Cultures

    This course surveys the historical development of American Indian peoples, particularly during the period of contact and conquest by Euro-Americans and particularly in the trans-Mississippi West region of what became the U.S. Topics include pre-contact life, oral literature, Indian accommodation and selective adaptation to Euro-American societies, Spanish, French and U.S. Indian policies, Native American religion, Christian mission work among American Indians, activism by and on behalf of American Indians, and reservation life. Prerequisite: General education writing requirement. (4 credits, alternate years, consult department)
  • The American West

    The American West

    The course focuses on the historical development of that portion of the continental United States west of the Mississippi River. Themes considered will include the frontier thesis, regionalism, Indian and white relations, social and economic patterns of western development, women, ethnic and racial minorities, religion and the West as cultural myth.Prerequisites: HIS101 and 150 or permission of instructor.(4 credits, alternate years, consult department)

Publications and presentations

  • Pilgrim Progression: The Protestant Experience in California, with Eldon G. Ernst (Santa Barbara: Fithian Press, 1993)
  • "Religious Pluralism: A Fluid Pacific in Contrast to a Solid Midwest," American Society of Church History, Philadelphia, 2006
  • "Toward an Established Mysticism: Judeo-Christian Traditions in Post-World War II California and Nevada," in Religion and Public Life in the Pacific Region: Fluid Identities, 2005
  • "Nantan Betunnykahyeh: Indian Agent John P. Club and the Apache," Westerners, Cody (WY) Corral, 2003
  • "Protestantism, Progress, and Prosperity: John P. Club and 'Civilizing' the U.S. Southwest, 1871-1886," in Western Historical Quarterly 33, 2002

Professional experience

  • Interim Director, Ramaker Library, Northwestern College
  • Project Archivist, HRDP Grant for Northwestern College Archives
  • Visiting Scholar, Buffalo Bill Historical Center, Cody, Wyoming
  • Visiting Scholar, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California


  • American Society of Church History
  • American Academy of Religion
  • Conference on Faith and History (president, 1996-97)
  • State Nomination Review Committee, National Register of Historic Places


  • Arrington-Prucha Prize, Western History Association, 2003
  • Woodrow Wilson Award, Presbyterian Historical Society, 1994
  • Northwestern College Professor Chair (five-year research endowment), 1994-99