History, Religion, and Culture. British Intellectual History, 1750-1950

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STEFAN COLLINI, RICHARD WHATMORE, AND BRIAN YOUNG, EDS. History, Religion, and Culture. British Intellectual History, 1750-1950. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Pp. viii + 289, index. $64.95.

Intellectual historians are given to claiming that the last twenty years or so have been marked by the widespread rediscovery of religion by historians not formerly marked off as "ecclesiastical," and religion's acceptance into an intellectual agenda once dominated by positivist issues. Readers ?ι Anglican and Episcopal History may approach this volume to see how far, and in what ways, that is the case. The expectation would be not wholly misplaced: this volume is one of two (the other entitled Economy, Polity and Society) organized as festschriften for two highly distinguished historians of ideas, John Burrow and Donald Winch. Such volumes attempt to be more than disparate collections; they generally offer an overview of the development of the subject to which the person honored has contributed, and so it is here. Yet Stefan Collini's general introduction, printed in both volumes, does not explore religion as an influence either on the developing discipline of the history of ideas or on the scholarly formation of Burrow and Winch themselves. Collini identifies the contents of this volume as "the relations between historiography, religion, and conceptions of natural and social change" (19), but it is not clear how far the theme of religion takes its rise from any preoccupations of this "school" at the University of Sussex, especially in the school's most formative years, the late 1960s and early 1970s. The volume opens with a wholly secular essay on method by Mark Salber Phillips of British Columbia which seems unindebted to Burrow or Winch. The first two substantive chapters are by J. G. A. Pocock and David Womersley, not members of the Sussex school, and from a different intellectual tradition; they examine in detail the greater role of religion in Gibbon's writings than an earlier identification of him as "the English Voltaire" allowed, but what it was in the developing discipline of the history of ideas that led Pocock and Womersley to this theme is not made explicit. In both cases it may have been the study of historiography, a concern evident from Pocock's first book in 1957 and traceable to the interests at Cambridge of Sir Herbert Butterfield: if so, this is not an intellectual genealogy that closely involves others of the contributors. …