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Dissenting Histories

Dissenting Histories: Religious Division and the Politics of Memory in Eighteenth-Century England

John Seed
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Dissenting Histories
    Book Description:

    This book provides a rich and empirically grounded account of relations between religious dissent, historical writing, public memory and political identity in eighteenth-century England.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-2948-0
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-ii)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. iii-iii)
  3. List of Abbreviations (pp. iv-iv)
  4. Acknowledgements (pp. v-vi)
    John Seed
  5. Introduction: Remembering the Present (pp. 1-12)

    This is a study of some eighteenth-century historical works. They are mostly by Dissenters, little known and less read: Edmund Calamy’s Abridgment of Mr Baxter’s History of his Life and Times, Daniel Neal’s History of the Puritans, William Harris’s Historical and Critical Account of the Life of Oliver Cromwell, Samuel Palmer’s The Nonconformist’s Memorial and Joseph Cornish’s Brief and Impartial History of the Puritans, among others. Chapters are also devoted to David Hume’s History of England and Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. The object of study is not, however, a series of texts, canonical or otherwise, abstracted...

  6. 1 The Debt of Memory: Edmund Calamy and the Dissenters in Restoration England (pp. 13-40)

    Edmund Calamy’s An Abridgment of Mr Baxter’s History of his Life and Times, published in 1702, was the first published history by a Dissenter to begin to recover the national Dissenting experience of ‘the great ejection’ of 1662 and its aftermath. A second, much-expanded two-volume edition, in which the entire second volume was devoted to detailing the ejected ministers, was published in 1713.¹ And in 1727 Calamy published, in two substantial volumes, A Continuation of the Account of the Ministers, Lecturers, Masters and fellows of Colleges and Schoolmasters, who were Ejected and Silenced after the Restoration in 1660. Together these...

  7. 2 Protestant Liberty: Daniel Neal and The History of the Puritans (pp. 41-72)

    The most influential Dissenting history of the eighteenth century was The History of the Puritans by Daniel Neal; or to give its full title: The History of the Puritans; or, Protestant Nonconformists; from the Reformation in 1517. To the Revolution in 1688: comprising an account of their principles; their attempts for a further reformation in the Church; their sufferings; and the lives and characters of their most considerable divines. Caroline Robbins called it ‘probably the most interesting revelation of Dissenting ideas in a secular work in the second quarter of the eighteenth century’.¹

    Calamy’s historical writing was a sometimes awkward...

  8. 3 Enthusiasts, Puritans and Politics: David Hume’s History of England (pp. 73-98)

    David Hume’s History of England was the most important and widely read history of the English polity published in the eighteenth century.¹ One of its aims was to challenge the kinds of political memory that circulated everywhere in Hanoverian England – in other words, to exorcise Stuart and Cromwellian ghosts, to delegitimise the political memories of Whigs, Tories and Jacobites, of Churchmen and Dissenters, finally to bury the dead. The agenda for The History of England was sketched out in a number of Hume’s essays of the 1740s. Imagine, Hume says, a Member of Parliament in the reign of William or...

  9. 4 Enlightenment, Republicanism and Dissent: William Harris’s Histories (pp. 99-123)

    At the same time as Hume, another historian was producing a history of seventeenth-century England – William Harris, a Dissenting minister in the west of England. Born in Salisbury in 1720, the son of a Dissenting woolcomber, he was educated for the ministry at Taunton Academy. He served brief spells as a minister to Dissenting congregations first at St Looe in Cornwall and then at Wells in Somerset, where he was ordained in April 1741.¹ He married Miss Elizabeth Bovit of Honiton in Devon and lived the rest of his life there, ministering to a small Dissenting congregation of around a...

  10. 5 Dissenting Histories in the 1770s and 1780s (pp. 124-154)

    Several factors converged in the 1770s to bolster interest among Dissenters in their own history. First, in 1767 the long, wearying legal battle between the City of London Corporation and the Protestant Dissenting Deputies came to end when six out of seven Law Lords decided in favour of the Dissenting position.¹ By Lord Mansfield’s judgment, Dissent was legally secured. Dissenting religious worship was, he said, ‘not only exempted from punishment, but rendered innocent and lawful: it is established, it is put under the protection, and is not merely under the connivance of the law’.²

    But within two years, in the...

  11. 6 ‘The Fiction of Ancestry’: Burke, History and the Dissenters (pp. 155-184)

    The focus of this chapter is Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France. It is worth remembering the full title of the book that was published in November 1790: Reflections on the Revolution in France, and on the proceedings in certain societies in London relative to that event. In a letter intended to have been sent to a gentleman in Paris. For the first few months of its writing it had a different title. It was announced in February 1790 as: Reflections on certain proceedings of the Revolution Society, of the 4th November 1789, concerning the affairs of France....

  12. Conclusion (pp. 185-192)

    To move beyond Burke’s Reflections into the Revolution debate of the 1790s is to move beyond the scope of this book – indeed, would warrant another book. These rich and complex exchanges, in a situation of acute political crisis, were the nexus out of which came some of the major works of Whig history of the first half of the nineteenth century, bedevilled by the unfinished business of 1688.¹ The Revolution debate was precisely – and this has been underplayed in the secondary literature – a dispute about history. It was, in key respects, initiated by the Dissenters in their campaigns against the...

  13. Select Bibliography (pp. 193-199)
  14. Index (pp. 200-202)