Latter-day Saints have a fascination with Nauvoo. Nauvoo Restoration projects, a steady stream of visitors to the area, and a continual flood of new books and articles attest to the attraction of this “kingdom on the Mississippi.” Early in 1990 two new books were released that dealt with Nauvoo. While both books deepen our knowledge, each has its own character and purpose.
In Old Nauvoo is a social history. Its author, George W. Givens, states that his book was written “to fill a vacuum that has been neglected by Mormon historians” (ix). Givens is only partially correct. It is true that there are no book-length social histories of Nauvoo; there are, however, numerous articles and monographs that focus on various dimensions of Nauvoo’s social life. Givens seems unaware of these, and I can only conclude that he has not attained the cutting edge of Latter-day Saint historical scholarship. A reading of Givens’s sources will quickly reveal this deficiency. He cites well-known general studies but overlooks specialized and even pathbreaking articles. For instance, in his chapter “Sickness and Death,” Givens has not cited the article by Bishop, Lacey, and Wixom entitled “Death at Mormon Nauvoo, 1843-1845” (Western Illinois Regional Studies 9 [Fall 1988]: 70-83). Similar examples could be given for almost every chapter.