Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Carolyn R. Dupont

Second Advisor

Ronald K. Huch

Third Advisor

Todd Hartch


This thesis examines the influence of American culture on Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. While most scholarship applies a religious, sociological, or psychological approach to understating the Jonestown tragedy, this paper endeavors to understand the man, his church, and the event through the lenses of American cultural history. Specifically, this analysis looks at the influence of Pentecostalism, egalitarianism, and socialism as well as cultural events such as the civil rights movement on the Reverend Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple church. Using FBI documents gathered during the investigation into the murder of the congressman Leo Ryan at Jonestown, audio recordings of Jim Jones' sermons and speeches, and secondary works relating to the Peoples Temple and broader themes in American cultural history, this thesis provides an in depth historical analysis of Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple.