Nineteenth-Century English Religious Traditions: Retrospect and Prospect

By Arnstein, Walter L | The Catholic Historical Review, January 1997 | Go to article overview

Nineteenth-Century English Religious Traditions: Retrospect and Prospect


Arnstein, Walter L, The Catholic Historical Review


Nineteenth-Century English Religious Traditions: Retrospect and Prospect. Edited by D. G. Paz. [Contributions to the Study of Religion, Number 44.] (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. 1995. Pp. xiv, 232. $55.00.) Denis Paz, himself a distinguished historian of religion during the Victorian era, has assembled a highly stimulating series of predominantly bibliographical and historiographical essays on virtually all shades of the century's religious spectrum. The contributors are all experts in the fields they survey.

Four authors devote themselves to those Victorian Protestant Nonconformists who, between the 1840's and the 1890's, were at least as likely as were adherents of the established Church of England to attend religious services on Sunday. Richard J. Helmstadter assesses the Baptists and Congregationalists who had been awakened from their eighteenth-century doldrums by the early nineteenth-century Evangelical Revival. Robert K. Webb appraises the Quakers and the Unitarians, the two numerically tiny denominations that furnished so many important figures in Victorian business, banking, social reform, and local government, even if the Unitarians "are not perceived as having the same distinctive identity as the Quakers" (p. 112). David Hempton discusses numerically the most significant product of the Evangelical Revival, Victorian Methodism, itself divided among Wesleyans, Primitive Methodists, and other groups. The subjects of Peter Lineham are the elusive and often ephemeral "sects"-millenarian, charismatic, spiritualist-that flourished intermittently on the fringes of organized Nonconformity and Anglicanism.

Edward Royle masterfully surveys "Freethought: The Religion of Irreligion," whose organized adherents "loomed much larger on the Christian horizon. . than their numbers alone would appear to have warranted" (p. 195), and Jeffrey Cox surveys the historical literature on those intrepid Victorian Protestant missionaries who set off for Africa and Asia. …

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