By Frank Prochaska
An elegantly written examine that charts the connection among Christianity and social provider in Britain because the eighteenth century and offers a not easy new interpretation of the hyperlinks among Christian decline and democratic traditions.
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Extra resources for Christianity and Social Service in Modern Britain: The Disinherited Spirit
By the late nineteenth century philanthropy was not only a sign of Christian worth and civic virtue but of national standing. Indeed, the Victorians equated their civilization with the proportion of national activity given over to benevolent causes, just as a later generation would equate it with the welfare state. When Podsnap boasted to his foreign guest in Our Mutual Friend that ‘there is not a country in the world, sir, where so noble a provision is made for the poor’, he was trying to show his country to best advantage.
What changes in Christianity made accommodation with the state palatable? For decades Britons have looked primarily to government—to the social services and the National Health Service—to address both social and physical ills. ⁹⁵ What role did 26 Background the churches play in the rise of state provision, and did the erosion of Christian belief encourage the expansion of government? In turn, did the growth of state provision diminish religion? Did the rival denominations have the ﬂexibility to deal with changing social and political attitudes?
The fact that Sunday school scholars did not have to take time off made the schools acceptable to factory-owners. ²² The rapid expansion of the Sunday school movement was given momentum by political events after 1789. There is a grain of truth in the saying that when the French became republican the English became religious. French principles invigorated both piety and paternalism in Britain and were a great stimulus to charitable organization. Few in Britain advocated the French Jacobin dictum that education should be ‘universal, compulsory, gratuitous, and secular’.