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Religion and the Enlightenment <BR> 1600-1800

Gibson, William

Religion and the Enlightenment

Conflict and the Rise of Civic Humanism in Taunton

Year of Publication: 2007

Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2007. 385 pp.
ISBN 978-3-03910-922-7 pb.  (Softcover)

Weight: 0.560 kg, 1.235 lbs

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Book synopsis

This book considers how Early Modern England was transformed from a turbulent and rebellious kingdom into a peaceable land. By considering the history of Taunton, Somerset, the most rebellious town in the kingdom, it is possible to see how the emerging features of the Enlightenment – moderation, reason and rational theology – effected that transformation. The experience of Taunton in the seventeenth century was marked by economic fluctuations of the cloth trade and military struggles in the Civil War, the Monmouth Rebellion and the Glorious Revolution. The primary motivation for the citizens was zealous Puritanism. It inspired support for Parliament and rebellion against James II. But in the final quarter of the century a new rational and moderate Protestantism emerged from the largest Nonconformist congregation in the country and from a distinguished dissenting academy. The study shows that both the militancy of the seventeenth century and the enlightened moderation of the eighteenth century were principally inspired by religious rather than secular values. This book contributes to our understanding of England’s transformation and of the religious factors that stimulated it.


Contents: The Triumph of Puritanism, 1550-1649 – The Black Bartholomew, 1649-1680 – Repression, Rebellion and Revolution 1680-1689 – Politics under the Toleration Act 1689-1720 – Religion under the Toleration Act 1689-1720 – Taunton’s Theology, 1720-1760 – The Meetings and The Academy, 1720-1760 – The Decline of Wool and The Victory of Civic Humanism – Taunton’s Moral Space and Transition.

About the author(s)/editor(s)

The Author: Professor William Gibson is Director of Lifelong Learning at Westminster Institute of Education, Oxford Brookes University. He has published widely on religion and society between 1600 and 1850, including Enlightenment Prelate, Benjamin Hoadly (1676-1761) and The Church of England, 1688-1832, Unity and Accord. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the Royal Society of Arts.


«...this book presents a new and fascinating thesis that places religion as central to our understanding of seventeenth and eighteenth-century politics and society. This is what makes this study of national importance and will be essential reading for those whose interests lay in these fields, as well as in the local history of Somerset.» (Daniel Cummins, Archives)
«...this is a rich and engaging history, which illuminates the changing fortunes of a fascinating town, as well as contributing to ongoing debates about religion, politics, and ‘the Enlightenment’ in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England.» (Joanna Cruickshank, H-Net Reviews)