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Title: Divine providence and epidemic cholera : a contribution to the study of secularization of thought in nineteenth-century England
Author: Grimley Evans, Corrinne Jane
ISNI:       0000 0001 3520 8950
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 1995
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The idea of providence was a prominent and pervasive theme in public discourse on subjects of national importance, and upon momentous occasions in nineteenthcentury England. Perceptions of divine involvement and purpose in human affairs embodied in the notion of providence seemed to be at the heart of a religious world view in the Christian tradition, and thus essential elements for study in any historical investigation of religious change. The midcentury years, ostensibly a period of high religious consciousness, provide an opportunity to explore processes which were eventually to lead to the more secular nature of society apparent by the end of the century. The recurring cholera epidemics between 1831 and 1854 were alarming events which provoked reactions throughout society; they provide a means of tracing developments in perceptions of providential involvement in calamitous events during a critical twenty-four year period. Systematic surveys of a broad range of sources, including newspapers, periodicals and sermons were carried out to document the responses of different sections of society, and facilitated investigation of cross-sectional and longitudinal patterns in religious attitudes. It was hypothesised that changing ideas about the nature and extent of providential action in relation to epidemic disease could provide an index of the process of secularization of thought, and thus contribute to the wider debate on secularization. The results vindicated the use of the concept of providence to explore religious consciousness. They have confirmed the mid-nineteenth century to be a critical period for religious change. Analysis of religious perceptions of cholera at three points in time produced a complex picture of changing attitudes, including an unexpected peaking of providential interpretations by some observers during the second epidemic. However, the variation between different sources and social groups did not obscure a significant longer-term trend of decline in providential attitudes, consistent with a secularization of thought during the quarter of a century studied.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History