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Title: Religious coexistence and sociability in England after the Toleration Act, c.1689-c.1750
Author: Brown, Carys Lorna Mary
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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The eighteenth century in England has long been associated with increasing consumption, trade, luxury, and intellectual exchange. In contrast with the religiously-fueled tumult of the previous century, it is frequently portrayed as a polite, enlightened and even secularising age. This thesis questions this picture. Taking the ambiguous legacies of the so-called "Toleration Act" of 1689 as its starting point, it explores the impact of the complex and uncertain outcomes of the 1689 Act on social relations between Protestant Dissenters and members of the Established Church in England in the first half of the eighteenth century. In connecting broader legislative change with developing social discourses and the practicalities of everyday life, it demonstrates the extent to which the Toleration Act made religious questions integral to the social and cultural development of the period. As a result, it stresses not only that developing modes and norms of sociability were essential to determining the nature of religious coexistence, but also that the changing religious landscape was absolutely integral to the evolution of multiple different social registers in eighteenth-century England. It therefore demonstrates how previously disparate approaches to eighteenth-century England are mutually illuminating, creating an account of the period that is better able to attend to both religious and cultural change. With this in mind this thesis pays particular attention to the language through which contemporaries described their sociability, suggesting that they have great potential to illuminate the nature of religious coexistence in this period. Starting from the premise that the words an individual chooses are in some way both reflective and constitutive of their ways of thinking, several of the chapters that follow draw on and analyse the language contemporaries employed at the intersections between religion and sociability. The thesis as a whole suggests that doing so can give us insight into how their religious lives were socially organised, how groups were formed, bounded, and transgressed, and how that in itself fed back into the structures of sociability.
Supervisor: Walsham, Alexandra Marie Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Religious tolerance ; Social history ; Cultural history ; Religious history ; coexistence ; eighteenth century ; England ; sociability