OverviewReligion has often been regarded as the motor for change and upheaval in 17th century England: it has been seen as the prime cause of civil war, the inspiration for the godly rule of Oliver Cromwell and ‘the Saints’, and central to the Glorious Revolution of 1688-9. Fears of popery, it has been suggested, helped forge English national identify. This module reflects critically on these claims. It explores tensions within English Protestantism, which led to an intense struggle for supremacy within the English Church in the early 17th century, to be followed in the 1640s and 1650s by the fragmentation of Puritanism into numerous competing sects which generated a remarkable proliferation of radical ideas on religion and society. The Restoration of Church and King in 1660 saw the gradual and contested emergence of a dissenting community and the partial triumph of religious tolerance, with profound implications for English society and culture. Another key theme is the changing fortunes of Anglicanism, with its erosion of its position from a national Church to the established Church over the century. The marginal position of English Catholics in 17th century England, albeit with a genuine possibility of significant recovery of rights and influence under James II, is also crucial. The module will address issues of theology, the close relationship between political power and religious change, and the nature of debates on religion at national and local level, and also track elements of continuity and change over a formative century in English religious experience.
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