Navigation – Plan du site

AccueilNuméros76Notes de lectureandrew c. thompson, ed., The Oxfo...

Notes de lecture

andrew c. thompson, ed., The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume II: The Long Eighteenth Century c.1689-c.1828

Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2018. 464 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-870224-5
Nathalie Collé
Référence(s) :

Thompson, Andrew C., ed. – The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume II: The Long Eighteenth Century c.1689-c.1828. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2018. 464 pp. ISBN 978-0-19-870224-5

Texte intégral

1The Long Eighteenth Century c.1689-c.1828 (June 2018) is the second volume in the five-volume Oxford History of Dissenting Protestant Traditions series. It is preceded in the series by The Post-Reformation Era, c.1559-c.1689, Volume i, edited by John Coffey (due 2019), and followed by The Nineteenth Century, Volume iii, eds. Timothy Larsen and Michael Ledger-Lomas (May 2017), The Twentieth Century: Traditions in a Global Context, Volume iv, ed. Jehu J. Hanciles (March 2019), and The Twentieth Century: Themes and Variations in a Global Context, Volume v, ed. Mark P. Hutchinson (October 2018).

2In the Series Introduction which opens the volume (xvi-xxi), Timothy Larsen and Mark A. Noll explain that The Oxford History of Dissenting Protestant Traditions series was “commissioned to complement the five-volume Oxford History of Anglicanism” (xviii). They are careful to present Dissent as “a relative term” (xix) and to assess it against others which “might have been chosen for the title” (xix), notably “Nonconformist” and “Free Churches”. “Dissenting Studies” being “a recognized and flourishing field of academic studies” (xix), “Dissenting Protestant Traditions” was preferred, “however imprecise the category of ‘Dissent’ must remain” (xxi). As Larsen and Noll spell out, “‘Dissent’ points to a history or [sic] affinities shared to a greater or lesser extent, but not to an unchanging essence”, notably because it is “defined in relation to Establishment” (xix). Besides, they insist on the fact that the Oxford History of Dissenting Protestant Traditions is “governed by a motif of migration (‘out of England’, as it were)” (xviii) in tracing the complex history of Dissent as it arose in England and spread beyond England from the late seventeenth century to the early nineteenth century, or between the passing of the Toleration Act (1689) and the repealing of the Test and Corporation Acts (1828). They point out that the contributors’ “brav[ing] intellectual anomalies and historical inconsistencies” (xx) results in “untidiness in the volumes” which “reflects reality itself rather than editorial confusion” (xx).

3Volume ii is divided into five parts of unequal length. It comprises altogether twenty contributions by leading scholars in the field, which start with five chapters devoted to “Traditions within England” (Part i, 9-115), then move on to five chapters dedicated to “Traditions outside England” (Part ii, 117-221), then two chapters dealing with “Awakening” (Part iii, 223-60), two with “Context” (Part iv, 263-301), and finally six with “Congregations and Living” (Part v, 303-457). If the first two and final part titles are relatively self-revelatory, the remaining two (“Awakening” and “Context”) are more obscure, or at least so unspecific in their phrasing that it takes the reading of the chapter titles – and even perhaps of the chapters themselves – to get an idea of what they really are about.

4In the volume Introduction (1-7), editor Andrew C. Thompson, Senior College Lecturer in History at Queen’s College, University of Cambridge, announces that “[t]his volume seeks to explore Dissent in ways that recognize the changes that have taken place within historical study more generally in recent years” (4). He states that the volume “charts some of the manifold ways in which Dissent moved from the fringes to a position of significance and centrality within the anglophone world” (7), and underlines that “[t]here is a strong emphasis on placing the Dissenting experience within a broad, global context” (4). In his own chapter on “Toleration, Dissent, and the State in Britain” (chapter 13), Thompson claims that “[d]uring that century and a half, Dissenters moved from being an oppressed and persecuted minority, denied both freedom of worship and basic political rights, to a self-confident and growing group, whose voice increasingly commanded attention on the national stage” (263), a claim which is repeated throughout the volume. In Part ii, it is the spreading of Dissent to the international scale which is probed, offering some insights into “a continuous history of English Dissent adapting to conditions outside of England” (xvi).

5Thompson claims that “[a]lthough the present volume begins with separate chapters on each of the major denominations of Dissent, it seeks to avoid a narrow ‘genealogical’ approach which Patrick Collinson identified as being one of the dangers of Dissenting historiographies built around the idea of denomination” (4). In this first part, Alasdair Raffe deals with “Presbyterians,” Stephen Orchard with “Congregationalists,” Karen E. Smith with “Baptists,” Richard C. Allen with “Quakers,” and Richard P. Heitzenrater with “Methodism and Dissent in Eighteenth-Century Britain.”

6While Part i traces the history of various dissenting traditions within England, Part ii explores some of the ways in which these traditions developed outside England. Andrew R. Holmes deals with “Protestant Dissent in Ireland”, Stewart J. Brown with “Protestant Dissent in Scotland,” Eryn White with “Protestant Dissent in Wales,” Catherine A. Brekus with “Dissent in the American Colonies before the First Amendment,” and Kate Carté Engel with “Dissent in the Atlantic World, 1787-1830.”

7Part iii comprises a first chapter by Michael McClymond on “Revival,” and a second one by Brian Stanley on “Missionary Societies.” It is devoted to the development and influence of revivalist movements, and to the role of Evangelical Dissent in fuelling the Protestant missionary expansion.

8Part iv includes a chapter on “Toleration, Dissent, and the State in Britain” by Andrew C. Thompson, and one on “Abolitionism and the Social Conscience” by G. M. Ditchfield. It examines the evolving relationship between Dissent and the Establishment on the one hand, and abolitionism and anti-slavery campaigns on the other.

9Finally, Part v offers a range of studies devoted to how Dissenters lived and expressed their faith in the long eighteenth century – their theological debates and biblical criticism, the importance and specificities of their sermons and hymns, their involvement in education and print culture, and the architectural features of their buildings. It includes chapters on “Theology and the Bible,” by David M. Thompson, “Sermons,” by Françoise Deconinck-Brossard, “Dissenting Hymnody,” by J. R. Watson,” “Dissent and Education,” by Mark Burden, “The Material Culture of Dissent: Meeting Houses, Chapels, and Churches in England and America, 1600-1830,” by Carl Lounsbury, and “Dissenting Print Culture,” by Tessa Whitehouse.

10Each of the 20 chapters is accompanied by extensive footnotes and followed by a very helpful Select Bibliography. The volume ends on an index (457-64), mostly of names and denominations. It was carefully edited and aptly illustrated in some places – chapter 19 on meeting houses, chapels, and churches in England and America, 1600-1830 contains eleven illustrations, while chapter 17 on hymnodity comprises two and chapter 16 on sermons one.

11This second volume, and the collection as a whole, are inestimable contributions by “accomplished scholars with widely recognized expertise in their chosen subjects” (xx) to the history of Protestant Dissent in the long eighteenth century and through time, and indispensable sources for historians of Dissent, church history scholars and students of religion. This second volume is also noticeable and valuable in that its various chapters both provide insights into and raise questions about the development and diffusion of Dissent from c.1689 to c.1828 in England and abroad, thereby opening up more research avenues for leading and budding scholars.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Nathalie Collé, « andrew c. thompson, ed., The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume II: The Long Eighteenth Century c.1689-c.1828 »XVII-XVIII [En ligne], 76 | 2019, mis en ligne le 31 décembre 2019, consulté le 01 avril 2023. URL : ; DOI :

Haut de page


Nathalie Collé

Université de Lorraine, IDEA EA 2338

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur


Creative Commons - Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International - CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Haut de page
Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search