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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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Preface

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This book breaks new ground; it fills a gap. It attempts to describe, analyse and comment on the political and social thinking, attitudes and actions of all the English Protestant churches from about 1770 to the present day. No previous work in this field has had such a broad sweep. A special emphasis is given to how the churches have responded to the plight of the least privileged, most deprived members of society – to individuals and groups marginalised or placed at a disadvantage in comparison with most of the population as a consequence of their ethnic, economic or physical status and circumstances. Throughout the ages, these have been the nation’s underdogs; the least politically and socially empowered of its inhabitants. The book likewise embraces such people in other lands, in as far as the churches in England have found themselves challenged to widen their sphere of social concern and action beyond their own borders.

The main focus of attention is not, therefore, Anglican and Nonconformist internal, domestic, theological and ecclesiological matters, or external issues that have impinged on the faith; all of which have occupied so much of the time and energy of the churches and their leaders at various times, and all of which typically command attention in general histories of the churches in England during the last two-and-a-half centuries. Such matters do not come into the reckoning except when they relate to, and are relevant to, the main theme and concern of the book...

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