The Public Interest

Religion in Middletown

Theodore Caplow

Summer 1982

FIVE years ago, Howard Bahr, Bruce Chadwick, and I went back to the hospitable community that Robert and Helen Lynd studied in the 1920s and again in the 1930’s to see what the intervening half century had done to its social institutions. The Lynds called Muncie, Indiana “Middletown,” a name they borrowed from a nearby village. It is the practice in social research to assign pseudonyms to communities that are studied, and many of these have become famous: Yankee City, Elm Town, Plainville, Southerntown, Eastern City, Crestwood Heights, Park Forest. But Middletown is the most famous of all, perhaps because it is so near the center of American culture. The Lynds chose it because it had no “outstanding peculiarities or acute local problems.”

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