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Religion in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

It is difficult, perhaps, for us to appreciate the importance of religion in the lives of people who lived in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries, since we live in a secular world where material things are of more importance than things spiritual. However, it is necessary to judge people of the past by their standards, not by ours. It is intended to give a brief background to religious developments, not to provide a definitive answer to any examination question!

The various religious denominations are on separate pages. Do also look at the Glossary of Theological Terms.


The Catholic Church dates back to the time of the Roman Empire, and is so called because the Church was (and is) centred at the Vatican in Rome. Only in Britain is the Catholic Church referred to as "Roman Catholic". This is because the Anglican Church also considers itself to be "Catholic" (universal) and a differentiation had to be made when the Church of England was established.


Anyone who is a Christian, and who is not a Roman Catholic is, by definition, a Protestant. The word derives from Luther's protest in 1517 against the abuses current in the Roman Catholic Church in the early 1500s. In England, there are a number of different types of Protestant.


are members of the Church of England, which is the Established Church of this country. It was made the official Church in 1558 by Elizabeth I in an attempt to satisfy everyone; she ended up satisfying very few. By law, everyone was supposed to be a practising member of the Church of England (i.e. they were to be Anglicans).

The Oxford Movement

The Clapham Sect

William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect were members of the Anglican Church. They sought salvation through good works and were so influential, they deserve a page to themselves!


These were people who disagreed with the teachings of the Church of England - they dissented. Sometimes these people are also called Nonconformists because they refused to conform (do as they were told) to the law saying that everyone was to be an Anglican. There is a great range of Dissenters, including:

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Last modified 4 March, 2016

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