The family and the church in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

Gibson, William (1995) The family and the church in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. PhD thesis, Middlesex University. [Thesis]

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The published articles and papers that form this submission focus on the nature of English Society between 1689 and 1900. In particular they address the nature of the family and the Church as social institutions. The underlying theme of the three groups of publications is the strength of continuity in these institutions.
This group of publications considers the nature of the family between the Restoration and the Edwardian eras. The function of the family, and the desire to make provision for its survival
was an important feature, reflected in the practise of nepotism among the middle class professional families that dominated the clergy. Dynastic survival was also important, perhaps even socially imperative, for families from the upper echelons of society. As a result these landed families frequently resorted to social and legal fictions to suggest the continuity and legitimacy of their dynasties. Against the background of the vicissitudes that affected the Wane family, these fictions often assured survival.
This group of publications demonstrates that the Church in the eighteenth century was not the moribund and corrupt institution it has been held to be by Victorian historians. It was, rather, a vibrant and dynamic institution, whose bishops and clergy were painstaking, committed and achieved a significant level of professional success. Where reform and
change was necessary, there is evidence that eighteenth century bishops undertook it; often reversing the neglect of the preceding century. The system of patronage, often the subject of attack, contained more integrity than is often allowed, and even solicitous clergy are not easily censured.
This group of publications advances the view that the sharp delineation of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries into two `eras' of ecclesiastical history is untenable. The reforms of the eighteenth century were extended into the realm of patronage by the Governments of 1812-30; the re-introduction of rural deans started in the 1820s and the career and educational
patterns within the episcopate evolved only slowly. Thus rather than the Whig reforms of the 1830s acting as a historical watershed, they were another feature in a series of evolutionary reforms. Equally, features of the Church in the eighteenth century persisted late into the nineteenth century: the exercise of personal patronage by prime ministers, motivated by a range of secular factors, and the career and educational pattern of the episcopate are examples of this persistence.
These three themes confirm a number of associated historical trends. There is no doubt that they lend weight to the importance of the hereditary element among the professional classes. They also confirm the view that English society was one in which social mobility was present, particularly within the Church. Though it would be rash to suggest the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw the rise of a meritocracy, it may however be reasonable to suggest that the rise and reward of merit in the eighteenth century was more prevalent than has hitherto been suggested.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Submitted in partial fulfilment of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by Published Works of Middlesex University.
Research Areas: A. > School of Law > Social Policy Research Centre
B. > Theses
Item ID: 10900
Depositing User: Adam Miller
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2013 07:20
Last Modified: 30 Nov 2022 03:21

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