English Society, 1660-1832: Religion, Ideology and Politics during the Ancien Regime

By Brooks, Richard S. | Anglican and Episcopal History, March 2003 | Go to article overview

English Society, 1660-1832: Religion, Ideology and Politics during the Ancien Regime


Brooks, Richard S., Anglican and Episcopal History


J. C. D. CLARK. English Society, 1660-1832: Religion, Ideology and Politics during the Ancien Regime. Second edition. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Pp. xii + 580, index. $34.95 (paper), $74.95 (cloth).

J. C. D. Clark has written or edited seven books and many scholarly articles on English political and cultural history. The first edition of this book, published in 1985, has been both influential and controversial. Even amongst scholars who do not totally agree with Clark, his revisionist historiography has put religion in general, and the Church of England in particular, in a central place in the study of eighteenth-century English politics and ideology.

The work here under review is so thoroughly revised, updated, and expanded that it borders on being a new book. A textual comparison of the two editions reveals the following: about 290 pages in the first edition appear as 320 pages in the second; about 250 pages appear only in the second edition; about 140 pages appear only in the first edition. (If one were to read pages vii-xiii, 1-48, 106-20, 141-73, 186-98, and 419-39 of the first edition, along with the entire second edition, one would miss almost nothing.) In addition to deleting significant blocks of material and adding much new material, Clark rearranges and carefully edits the shared material. He seems to have reconsidered every sentence, maybe even every phrase, from the first edition. Moreover, he has thoroughly considered and integrated into his text much secondary literature written since 1985 and additional primary sources as well. The table of contents has been changed in most of its titles and subtitles.

In the second edition Clark puts less emphasis on historiography and far less (indeed, almost no) emphasis on showing what is wrong with other historians. These were major emphases in the first edition and received harsh criticism from reviewers. He still, however, persuasively supports most of his positive claims about "the long eighteenth century in England. Thus, what warrants the designation "second edition" is that Clark retains the same interpretative approach and theoretical framework for the period.

In the first edition Clark used the concept of "the long eighteenth century" to cover the period 1688-1832 and postulated that there is an integrity in this period which is broken when 1714 or 1789 are used as chronological boundaries. He has had significant success in the intervening years in getting other historians (and especially historians of English Christianity) to adopt this chronological scheme. In the second edition he not only defends the concept of the long eighteenth century, but even extends it to 1060-1832. For this period in English constitutional and political history, Clark continues to stress the importance of continuities, collectivities, and religion as opposed to the twentieth-century values of change, radical individualism, and secularism.

As in the earlier edition, Clark wants to eliminate the anachronistic use of terms (such as class, conservatism, enlightenment, industrial revolution, liberalism, modernization, nationalism, radicalism, and secularisation). To describe the period, he uses terms from it (such as anti-Catholicism. Arians, Deism, Dissenters, freethinkers, Jacobinism, Jacobitism. Nonjurors, and Old Corruption). And he treats many terms in their original sense rather than in their later sense (such as democracy, emancipation, high church, latitudinarianism. Methodism, reform, republicanism, revolution and the Revolution [1088], society, toleration, and Unitarianism). Although he does not use the phrase himself, he effectively lets eighteenth-century people think eighteenth-century thoughts. For the most part, this is extremely useful and helps the reader better understand how many of those persons understood and experienced their own world.

But there are also some problems associated with this approach. …

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