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The Activity and Influence of the Established Church in England, c. 1800-1837



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Dixon, Nicholas Andrew  ORCID logo


This thesis examines the various ways in which the Church of England engaged with English politics and society from c. 1800 to 1837. Assessments of the early nineteenth-century Church of England remain coloured by a critique originating in radical anti-clerical polemics of the period and reinforced by the writings of the Tractarians and Élie Halévy. It is often assumed that, in consequence of social and political change, the influence of a complacent and reactionary church was irreparably eroded by 1830. While some historians have moved beyond this restrictive framework, their focus has generally been on the Church’s internal affairs and the ways in which the clergy were affected by political and social reforms. By contrast, this thesis investigates not only how the Church responded to change, but also, above all, how the Church itself was able to shape political and social life. The thesis presents a national, as opposed to a regional, picture of Anglican activity by way of geographically dispersed case studies from throughout England. Five main strands are explored. The first chapter delineates the nature and extent of mainstream Anglican allegiance in this period. On this basis, the role of the clergy in political life is considered in the next two chapters, with reference to both the contribution of the bishops to the proceedings of the House of Lords and clerical involvement in parliamentary politics at a local level. In the final two chapters, the extra-parliamentary participation of the Church in English society is discussed, by reference to the growth of Anglican schools for the poor and the expanding efforts of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. From these multifarious strands emerges a new picture of early nineteenth-century English politics and society, in which the Church of England was a pivotal agent, rather than only a beleaguered victim, of significant socio-political changes.





Thompson, Andrew


Anglicanism, Parliament, House of Lords, Elections, Education, National Society, SPCK, Tractarianism, Bishops, Politics, Print Culture, Publishing, Schools, Queen Caroline Affair, Catholic emancipation, Reform Bill, Church of England, Dissent, Clergy, Universities, Radicalism, Whiggism, Toryism, Conservatism, Evangelicalism, Legislation, Preaching, Sermons, Newspapers, Tracts


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Arts and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Training Partnership Studentship Pembroke College, Cambridge