Methodism and Education, 1849-1902: J.H. Rigg, Romanism, and Wesleyan Schools

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Methodism and Education, 1849-1902:,j. H. Rigg, Romanism, and Wesleyan Schools. By John T Smith. (New York: Clarendon Press, Oxford University Press. 1998. Pp. xii, 258. $75.00.)

This study of Wesleyan Methodism and education in England and Wales in the second half of the nineteenth century illuminates many aspects of the intricate and fractious history of religious denominations in connection with educational development. Anti-Catholicism and anti-Anglicanism are clearly displayed as defining points of the Wesleyan attitude to education. Even though many Wesleyans were still quite respectful toward the Church of England as their "mother Church," and even though a number of leading Wesleyans were Conservative in politics, Wesleyanism was becoming more clearly Nonconformist and more radical during the period covered by this book. Wesleyans were suspicious of the educational claims and policies of the Established Church, especially on account of the partial influence of Tractarianism and Ritualism in the latter. Wesleyans tried to retain their own denominational day-- schools, which commenced in the late 1830's and grew rapidly until the 1870's. But the schools declined in number from a peak of 912 in 1873 to 849 in 1880. There was stability for a time after this, but Wesleyan schools appeared as an increasingly small contingent in comparison with the growing numbers of Anglican and Roman Catholic schools. In 1877 it was noted with concern that the number of pupils at Catholic day-schools had exceeded those at Wesleyan ones.

Rather than remain exclusively attached to denominational education, many Wesleyans preferred to support the Board Schools which were inaugurated by the State in 1870 and were undenominational in their religious teaching. …