Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Religion in Victorian Britain. Volume V: Culture and Empire

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Religion in Victorian Britain. Volume V: Culture and Empire

Article excerpt

Religion in Victorian Britain. Volume V: Culture and Empire. Edited by John Wolffe. (Manchester University Press in association with the Open University. Distributed in the United States and Canada by St. Martin's Press, New York. 1997. Pp. viii, 359. $24.95.)

In 1988 the Open University created a course on "Religion in Victorian Britain," accompanied by four volumes of texts and readings with the same title. The course and books successfully reflected the state of the field at that date, but a decade of further scholarship has convinced the Religious Studies faculty that a fifth volume should be added to cover cultural and imperial contexts omitted from the original set. There are three substantial essays on the topics of gender, church music, and colonial missions, and three case studies, two on authors whose work involved mission themes and one on colonial religions in Britain. The second part of the volume consists of documents keyed to the essays.

John Wolffe's "Introduction: Victorian Religion in Context," in addition to a useful survey of the recent literature, makes the interesting suggestion that Georgian Britain was not less but rather differently religious, leaving Victorian religion with no fixed reference point for its development. The first essay, by Frances Knight on questions of gender, covers a field in which most of the literature is recent, dealing with the separation of workplace and home, constructions of middle-class femininity and masculinity (including "Christian manliness"), single women and education, and women's philanthropy and ministry. Wolffe supplies a long essay on hymns and church music, a vital part of the Victorian religious experience, but omitted from many surveys because it falls between disciplines. …

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