Events

Our Annual Conference and AGM for 2023 will be on Saturday 17 June 2023, at Crown Court Church, Covent Garden, London.  The precise time will be fixed, but it will be in the middle of the day to enable as many people as possible to come in a day trip.  Booking information and precise times will be given nearer the time, but you may wish to book the date in your diary now, and a reminder that we have a Bursary Fund which can cover the cost.  If possible, we will attempt to record the lecture, but it is too early to say if this will be possible.

The Annual Lecture will be given by Professor Stewart J Brown of Edinburgh University

The title and some more information is given:
‘“The Most Important Single Generation”:  Revival, Romanticism, and Nonconformity in Britain, 1790-1830’

Professor Brown writes:
In his presidential address to the annual meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society in 1971, my late friend, Professor W. R. (Reg) Ward made a powerful impact with his opening sentence, as he referred to the generation of 1790 to 1830:  
“The generation about which I wish to speak was, I make no doubt, the most important single generation in the modern history not merely of English religion but of the whole Christian world.  For . . . there seems no doubt that the effectiveness of the Church throughout Western Europe was undermined by the same forces which were everywhere sapping the Ancien Régime, the whole institutional complex of which the religious establishments were part.”

Some 40 years ago, my first book, Thomas Chalmers and the Godly Commonwealth in Scotland (OUP 1982) provided a study of a leading figure of this remarkable generation, an established Church minister who endeavoured for most of his life to defend and extend established religion, only to lead the secession that formed the Free Church of Scotland in 1843.  I have continued to explore this extraordinary generation in subsequent works.  For my annual address to the Society, I would like to revisit Reg’s Ward’s crucial generation within its British context, painting with broad brush strokes and giving particular attention to recent scholarship on the end of the Enlightenment, romanticism and prophetic movements, anti-slavery movements, the early British missionary movement and colonialism, and religious networks.  I would also like to revisit the Halevy thesis, with its focus on the vital importance of voluntary associations and voluntaryism in religion in shaping modern Britain.  Why was it that the percentage of Nonconformists increased from about 10% of the British population in 1790 to almost half the population by the 1840s?  To what extent did this reflect romanticism and new ideas of individual moral agency?  To what extent did religious networks replace established Churches and parish structures?  Was this indeed the ‘most important single generation’ in the history of modern Christianity?

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