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Level 5

5AAT2351 Between Revolutions: British Christianity 1689-1860


The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee this module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Dr. Michael Ledger-Lomas
Assessment: One 2,000-word essay (40%) and one 2,500-word essay (60%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Teaching pattern: Two-hour weekly classes over ten weeks.
Pre-requisites: none

The period from the Glorious Revolution to the mid-nineteenth century generated many of the concepts and problems that characterise Christianity in Britain today. The Revolution launched a policy of toleration that injected new complexity and acrimony into the relationships between the established churches, Protestant dissenters and Roman Catholics. It hitched the established churches to a warfare state that aggressively pursued its commercial, strategic and imperial interests throughout the world. The module looks at the many ways in which British Christianity was transformed by its association with that state, ranging from the construction of colonial churches and societies to contact with non-Christian religions and involvement with the vexed issues of slavery and race. The evangelical revival was the most impressive and volatile product of British Christianity’s involvement in this new world, its preachers and thinkers both relying upon and challenging existing notions of toleration while also drawing upon ideas and practices developed in Protestant Europe and the New World. The module encourages students to see its revival in transnational and transatlantic context and to explore its relations with the enlightenment, an intellectual revolution that spanned continents and whose implications for Christianity remain the subject of intense debate today. The centrality of Christianity to new cultural and social ideals in this period, ranging from politeness and humanitarianism to ideas of gender, will be a particular focus of study. This will involve reading a wide range of primary texts, which will include poems, buildings and music alongside conventional forms of religious and theological writing. The module will also explore how the Christian churches struggled to cope with the problems of the modern world that they helped to create. The struggle against the French Revolution recast the relationships between church, dissent and Catholicism, generating stresses that brought about the collapse of the confessional state and secularised citizenship in Britain. The thriving towns that were Britain’s pride came to be feared as sinks of irreligion and stimulated the churches to champion voluntary associations, mass publishing and popular schools in order to tame them, institutions which became the foundations of Victorian society. Finally, Protestant efforts to create an enlightened faith based upon a scholarly Bible and the painstaking study of God’s creation generated ideas from evolution to the higher criticism of the Bible that inspired that most riveting and elusive of phenomena: ‘doubt’.

Most  sessions  will  be  divided  roughly  equally  between  a  lecture  and  a  period  of  discussion. Students will be encouraged to come to the classes prepared to participate in the discussion by reading primary sources, which will be posted on KEATS and  will  have  the opportunity  later  in the  semester  to  volunteer to introduce  these readings via  short oral  presentations. The  reading  list  will  provide  sufficient  background  for  full  participation  in  the  classes  and  for  the  writing  of  essays  on  related  topics.

Each student will be given a provisional mark and constructive feedback on the coursework essay, both returned via KEATS, which may be followed up by a one-to-one tutorial in appointments to be advertised.

Preliminary or introductory reading

Stewart Brown, Providence and Empire: Religion, Politics and Society in the United Kingdom, 1815-1914 (2009)

David Hempton, The Church in the Long Eighteenth Century (2011)

Further information

Module aims
The module aims to introduce students to the major transformations experienced by British Christianity from the later seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century; to acquaint them with the complex interactions between religious history and other forms of history; to advance the confidence and precision with which they handle texts and other kinds of historical evidence; and to introduce them to the study of relevant historiography. 
Learning outcomes

Generic skills

  • A familiarity with some of the problems associated with dealing with primary source material and of the extent of its potential to illuminate debates about the past.
  • The capacity to present a well-reasoned historical argument.

Module specific skills

  • An awareness of the pattern of historical debate about British Christianity in the nineteenth century.
  • An ability to evaluate such debates and to draw conclusions.
Past syllabi
Please find previous syllabus from academic year 2015-16 here.

Please note that module syllabus and topics covered may vary from year to year.
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