Change and continuity in the rural church : Norfolk, 1760 - 1840
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Two historiographical traditions have influenced our understanding of church and society in Georgian England: on the one hand the church has been subject to a severe, judgemental treatment which has discouraged impartial scholarship, and on the other the supposed decay of the rural community has provided material for a polemical brand of historical writing. These two traditions are discussed, then tested by a close scrutiny of the church and the community in Georgian Norfolk. A quantitative method is adopted, correlating a large amount of detailed information from all the rural parishes and assessing the influence of each factor over against the others. Three categories from this detailed survey – enclosure, tithes, and the growth of dissent - are then examined in more detail for the light they shed on the concept of historical continuity and the strength of regional identity, which, it is argued, are important counterbalances to the theme of change which has so dominated the historiography of this period. An attempt is made to survey the complex intellectual history of the church in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by tracing the changing concept of charity in the religious and social theory of the period. In conclusion it is suggested that, in this rural diocese at least, the social and economic relations between church and society were less subject to stress and change than has been supposed, and a plea is made for a less controversial, less consciously modern, historical perspective.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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