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Title: Civil religion in Britain, 1707-c.1800
Author: Walsh, Ashley James
ISNI:       0000 0004 7227 2603
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This study examines the development of theories of civil religion in Hanoverian Britain. In the aftermath of the seventeenth-century wars of religion, theorists of civil religion sought to render Protestant Christianity a faith whose ecclesiology was compatible with the civil state and whose practice encouraged civilised society. It presents lay thinkers including Anthony Ashley Cooper, third earl of Shaftesbury, John Trenchard, Thomas Gordon, Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke, Edward Gibbon, and David Hume, alongside clergymen such as Edmund Gibson, bishop of London, William Warburton, bishop of Gloucester, and Conyers Middleton. It considers such Dissenters as Joseph Priestley and Richard Price, who refashioned civil religion variously along Unitarian and congregational lines. In contrast to the usual scholarly preoccupation with the argument of Jean-Jacques Rousseau that Christianity could never become a civil religion, this study demonstrates how Hanoverian intellectuals constructed a Christian civil religion. They sought to purge the civil state and society of superstition, priestcraft, and enthusiasm by creating a religion of virtue, sociability, and happiness. They drew on the church-state relationship generated during the ‘long Reformation’ in England and Scotland by which the secular civil magistrate governed the national church and regulated its priests, who were to preach the simple morality of the gospel. Hanoverian theorists of civil religion synthesised primitive Christianity with the ancient civil religions, relying above all on Cicero. Irrespective of their inward views about the normative truths of the articles of faith of the churches of England and Scotland, civil religionists sought to reconcile them with civil ends. They believed that outward observance of the Reformed religion was a criterion for belonging within the Christian commonwealth of Hanoverian Britain.
Supervisor: Goldie, Mark Adrian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Intellectual history ; Eighteenth-century history ; History of religion