The Church of England in Industrialising Society: The Lancashire Parish of Whalley in the Eighteenth Century

By Brooks, Richard S. | Anglican and Episcopal History, December 2005 | Go to article overview
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The Church of England in Industrialising Society: The Lancashire Parish of Whalley in the Eighteenth Century


Brooks, Richard S., Anglican and Episcopal History


M. F. SNAPE. The Church of England in Industrialising Society: The Lancashire Parish of Whalley in the Eighteenth Century. Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: The Boydell Press, 2003. Pp. xi + 228, bibliography, index. $85.00.

This is a revised and somewhat extended doctoral dissertation. Its chronological framework is that of a "long eighteenth century" stretching from 1689 to 1804. Snape provides much data and convincing arguments to counter, or at least qualify, the revisionist ("optimistic") historiography of William Gibson, W. M.Jacob, Mark A. Smith, Jan Marie Albers. J. Jago, Jeremy Gregory, and Jeffrey S. Chamberlain. Snape's work is based on extensive research in primary published and manuscript sources, as well as a mastery of the secondary literature. The book will be of interest mainly to specialists.

Besides an introduction and a concluding section, the book has six chapters. "The Church and Popular Anglicanism" addresses the topics of Anglican public worship, administration of the sacraments, catechizing activity, calendrical festivals such as the rush-bearing ceremony, church bell-ringing, and maintenance of the churches. Snape uses this chapter to set the stage for his theses concerning the decline of Anglicanism in the eighteenth century. "The Church and Folk Christianity" addresses the topics of folk beliefs (witchcraft, demonic possession, ghosts) among the plebian class. He argues that folk Christianity can be seen as part of a developing rift between the Church of England and plebian culturewhich benefited Nonconformity and Catholicism. "Philanthropy; Education and the Church" relates the eighteenth-century Church of England to the amounts of charitable giving, charity and Sunday schools, and changing practices and perspectives regarding charity. Snape argues that charitable giving declined in the period and that, at the end of the century, the number of poor children receiving free education was tiny.

"The Church, its Courts and the Regulation of Morality" describes an uneven but long-term decline of the ecclesiastical courts and a decline in the regulation of morality by the established church in Whalley.

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