The Church of England c.1689-c.1833: From Toleration to Tractarianism. Edited by John Walsh, Colin Haydon, and Stephen Taylor. (New York: Cambridge University Press. 1993. Pp. xii, 372. $69.95.)
Ecclesiastical historians have devoted little scholarly attention to the Church of England during the Hanoverian era. To date, Norman Sykes's 1934 publication, Church and State and England in the Eighteenth Century, remains the only comprehensive monographic study of eighteenth-century Anglicanism. Presenting the most current research and historiography on this neglected theme, John Walsh, Colin Haydon, and Stephen Taylor offer an anthology of richly detailed essays designed to reassess the conventional view of the Georgian Church as a static, indifferent, and corrupt institution.
Beginning with a sound overview of the Church during the 'long' eighteenth-century (i.e., c. 1689-c. 1833), the editors divide the book into three parts, with each put containing several essays examining specific aspects of the Hanoverian Church. Contrary to the somnolent, irreverent entity portrayed by Victorian churchmen, these essays demonstrate that the Georgian Church was a vital force in English Life. Between the Revolution Settlement of 1689 and the Tractarian movement of the 1830's, the established Church faced many new social and political developments. Protestant dissenters received legal protection to worship outside of the Anglican fold. Increased urbanization created a need for energetic clergymen to serve parishes in rapidly growing towns and cites. Clerical pluralism and non-residence existed in many parts of the kingdom, particularly, as Vivian Barrie-Curlen reveals, in the diocese of London (pp. 86-109). Similarly to the Restoration Church, politics remained inextricably linked to religious issues characterized by conflicts between High Church Tories and Whig Low churchmen. Throughout the period, the three principal schools of Anglican churchmanship--High Church, Low Church, and Evangelicals--competed for the hearts and minds of clergy and laity alike. But religious labels should be used cautiously, for as John Walsh and Stephen Taylor observe, "What makes the taxonomy of Church groups particularly difficult is the way in which political definitions became periodically entangled with religious ones" (p. 34).
What emerges from this volume is a rehabilitated image of the eighteenth-century Anglican Church. Despite abuses such as pluralism and non-residence, Jeremy Gregory and Mark Smith describe the pastoral zeal of the Anglican clergy. Whatever their theological and devotional tendencies, many clergymen conscientiously performed their parochial duties. Sunday schools and charity schools were created, and clerics emphasized catechetical instruction in orthodox Anglican beliefs. In some localities such as the parochial chapelry of Saddleworth, much attention was given to building and repairing parish churches. An expanding population, among other things, forced church authorities to increase parish space. Thus, centers of Anglican pastoral activity and extensive church building, such as Saddleworth, counter the traditional view of a negligent and lax Hanoverian Church.
Similar essays by John Spurr, Craig Rose, and Elizabeth Elbourne show the centrality of Anglican lay and clerical voluntary groups in English religious life. For example, the Societies for the Reformation of Manners (SRM) promoted godly living and the reform of people's behavior. …