Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Nineteenth-Century Church and English Society

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Nineteenth-Century Church and English Society

Article excerpt

The Nineteenth-Century Church and English Society. By Frances Knight. (New York: Cambridge University Press. 1995. Pp. xiii, 230. $54.95.)

This is a study of the Church of England in a period of far-reaching transition. Its scope is significantly more limited that the title might imply: in chronological terms the coverage effectively ends in 1870, and the evidence is drawn predominantly from the author's doctoral dissertation on the largely rural diocese of Lincoln, in eastern England. Nevertheless, an extensive range of primary evidence is deployed: Lincoln at that period was an enormous diocese extending as far south as Buckinghamshire, and material is also drawn from the adjoining diocese of Ely, and from the diaries of three clergymen, Francis Massingberd, John Rashdall, and W K. Hamilton, which include reference to other parts of the country. Knight also effectively surveys the secondary literature and integrates its conclusions with her own.

Knight begins with an examination of lay religion, paying particular attention to ambiguities of loyalty between Anglicanism and Methodism, discussing the role of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, and examining popular attitudes to salvation. She then turns to the role of the church in the community, tracing an increasing differentiation of spheres. Zealous clergy were liable to discountenance secular uses of the church building, to make unpopular changes in the routine of services, and to make increasingly exacting requirements for baptism, the churching of women, and confirmation. …

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