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The English Protestant Churches since 1770

Politics, Class and Society

Kenneth Hylson-Smith

This book aims to describe and analyse the political and social thinking, attitudes and actions of the English Protestant churches since the late eighteenth century. It focuses in particular on how they have responded to the plight of the least privileged members of society – individuals and groups marginalised or placed at a disadvantage as a consequence of their ethnicity or socioeconomic circumstances. These have been the nation’s underdogs, the most powerless of its inhabitants, and this book explores the involvement of the churches in attempting to create a fairer society, from the anti-slavery campaign to the present day.

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Chapter 6: The modern age: 1945 to 2000


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The modern age: 1945 to 2000

From 1945 to the 1960s

The ending of the Second World War in 1945 ushered in a new age. The contrast with what had gone before was considerable, but it was not immediately so pronounced and dramatic as the change in 1918. Nonetheless, the years from the cessation of hostilities to the present day were to witness a greater global transformation than during any previous equivalent span of time, and arguably greater than had occurred in the whole of the previous history of the world. The phenomenal acceleration in the pace of scientific and technological advance was breath-taking. There were unprecedented questionings of inherited ideologies, and massive ideological realignments. There were the many and staggering new balances of political and economic power that accompanied the emergence of ‘new’ nations. And there were all the ramifications associated with the rapid creation of a global village. The combined effect of all these revolutions touched the lives of every nation and every person on the planet. Almost all previous values and presuppositions were cast into the melting pot. For the churches in England and elsewhere, it was as perplexing and challenging as anything they had ever had to face in the past.


One critical element in the trauma of the English churches was the continued, but decidedly accelerating, process of ‘secularisation’.1 This was characterised and made evident in very public...

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