*American History by Thomas Kidd

Interesting and readable, American History by Thomas Kidd is an outstanding resource for high school Christian students and teachers.

*American History by Thomas Kidd. B&H Academic, 2019. 704 pages.

cover image of American History

Reading Level: Adult, ages 16 and up

Recommended For: Teens and Adults, ages 14 and up

What seems inordinately significant in retrospect may not have seemed so important at the time. Conversely, events and people that seem momentous at the time may not appear that way in retrospect.

Kidd, p. 1

Isn’t this the reason we study history in the first place? To gain perspective, both on historical people, places, and events, as well as those of our own time and place? As Christians, we also study history to see how God has been at work through and for his people and his creation. Kidd, a professing Christian, sets out to do just that in this (giant) history textbook. Beginning with pre-European American history, he casts a broad net. Most people know the “biggies” of American history: Columbus, Revolutionary War, Civil War, WWI, Great Depression, WWII, Cold War, Civil Rights Movement. Survey texts seek to fill in the holes between the big events, weaving them into a cohesive narrative. What are the forces and events that led to these wars and monumental events? What are the results of those same wars and events?

Many new textbooks are seeking to weave new stories altogether from these disparate bits and pieces of history. Kidd tries to balance the old and new: telling the amazing story of American history that honors the good history and traditions of this country while simultaneously weaving in the (often) previously neglected strands relating to minorities and people of faith. Kidd outlines his three thematic emphases right away: “attention to religion,” “racial and ethnic conflict,” and “the state of American culture.”

Does he succeed? Yes.

The result is a hefty 700+ page meaty, dense history text packed with information and ideas. Clear chapter breaks and subheadings helpfully break up the text into accessible chunks; it reads linearly, like a regular book, and is (thankfully!) missing the many disruptive textbooks, asides, and miscellany that break up many modern textbooks into chaotic narratives. Christians will especially appreciate the attention given to Christianity’s role in American history. Kidd’s emphasis on racial and ethnic conflict is a marked change from many traditional textbooks, but it’s a welcome one. Rather than a Marxist approach, which views history through a racist/class-based lens, Kidd offers a more nuanced approach, showing racial conflict between many different groups and also highlighting people of all races who have made considerable contributions to American history. A quick survey of the index shows entries as diverse as Lemuel Haynes, Jimi Hendrix, and the Gospel Coalition. Christianity, race, and entertainment are impossible to separate from America’s history; Kidd brings them back into the conversation in this readable textbook that covers American history from pre-Columbian times right up to Donald Trump’s election.

Who is this textbook for? Its reading level and content puts it at an upper high school/early college level text, equally appropriate for a high school U.S. history class or an early college U.S. history class (remembering that high school students would take a school year to get through the book while a college class would merely take a semester). It’s “textbook-y” enough that most high school students won’t pick it up for leisure reading. However, it’s well-written enough that most students will find it a very engaging and interesting school text. Homeschool and Christian schools, both, will find it a great choice; it’s too “Christian” for most public school environments, although it doesn’t read like many “Christian” textbooks. Rather than constantly referencing concepts like God’s sovereignty, Kidd focuses more on the people who professed Christianity and their role in our history.

All in all, this is an outstanding resource for Christian students and teachers.


  • There are no extra “teaching” resources, such as quizzes, tests, pre-made study questions, and the like. High school teachers, in particular, will need to do a little teacher prep to make use of this book, but it will be time well spent.

Overall Rating: 4.75 out of 5

  • Worldview/Moral Rating: 5 out of 5
  • Literary/Artistic Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Read more about our ratings here. *indicates a starred review

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Betsy Farquhar

Betsy is the Managing Editor at Redeemed Reader. When she reads ahead for you, she uses sticky notes instead of book darts and willfully dog ears pages even in library books. Betsy is a fan of George MacDonald, robust book discussions, and the Oxford comma. She lives with her husband and their three children in the beautiful Southeast.

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  1. Danielle on November 13, 2022 at 7:38 pm

    Thank you for this review! I’m looking at it for next year for our homeschool. I’m wondering if trying to decide between this book and Land of Hope, which one would you pick? Thank you!

    • Betsy Farquhar on November 14, 2022 at 4:56 am

      Hi Danielle, That is a great question! (I’ll copy this to your comment on Land of Hope, too!) I’ll do my best since I’ve read both books, and both are excellent choices. I’ve only read/seen Kidd’s combined American History (one giant volume), but I think the same considerations apply since Land of Hope is “complete” and you’d need more than volume 1 of Kidd’s to make it complete: one consideration is price/availability. Land of Hope is cheaper. Another consideration is length: Land of Hope is much shorter than Kidd’s American History. That means that Kidd includes more details (lots more!). Neither is better than the other; it depends on whether you want an overview or want to drill down into the depths. Both have their merit. Another consideration is that Kidd intentionally looks at the role religion has played in American history, which means he covers more Christians than McClay does. McClay isn’t anti-Christian by any means, it’s just not a focus of his history. Both are pro-America, but McClay is a bit more overtly patriotic/hopeful in his tone. Kidd includes more people of color and looks more at the role race has played in American history, but neither book looks at history through a CRT lens. Kidd’s book is more textbook-y, both in layout and in tone: there are headings throughout the chapter and more visuals in general, but McClay’s is more literary in style and probably easier to read. In general, I’d say McClay’s is more accessible to the average high school student, but if you want a bit more heft and more details, than Kidd’s might be a better choice. If you’re planning to pair your history spine with additional titles (such as biographies), you may prefer McClay’s because it IS shorter and less comprehensive. I hope that helps! Both are expensive enough that it’s hard to justify buying both “just to see,” but I believe you can “look inside” the books on amazon; that will give you a feel for the style and level of writing. Both are excellent options, and I own both ;-).

      • Danielle on November 14, 2022 at 12:27 pm

        Thank you SO much for your detailed examples and compare/contrast. I appreciate it greatly!

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