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James Kirby's work is well researched and sure-footed ... Historians and the Church of England is a fine example of how much faith there is to notice in late Victorian and early twentieth-century British intellectual life for those with eyes to see. (Timothy Larsen, Times Literary Supplement)
James Kirbys highly original monograph...opens up a fascinating insight into a world of which most British historians today are but dimly aware. In a wide-ranging study of British historiography,he draws on a host of names some of them very familiar, some probably unfamiliar, almost certainly nearly all however unread today to construct a persuasive (to this reviewer) argument about the impact of Anglicanism on the development of historical scholarship at the end of the nineteenth century. (Jeremy Morris, Theology)
Kirby presents a substantially revised picture of the state of English historical scholarship around the turn of the century, a reassertion of the scholarly and intellectual creativity of the Church of England into the Edwardian era, and a series of bracing challenges to established orthodoxies in the histories of historiography and national identity. It is simply a pleasure, finally, to read such well-turned prose, and to see such a subtle and powerful intellect at work. (Alex Middleton, Twentieth Century British History)
James Kirby's book is a rewarding, diligent, and empathetic excursion into a lost world of Victorian intellectual history, which does much to reanimate these historiographical questions and to explain the commitment of historians to their vocation. (Alexander Hutton, Reviews in History)
[Kirby] has produced an excellent study ... his analysis of the development of history as a discipline, particularly on the development of constitutionalism and socioeconomic history, is remarkable. Overall, the book deserves a central place in a historiography syllabus, as the wealth of materials consulted, the writing and organization of the work, and the analysis of the scholarship by amateurs and professionals from the era demonstrate a successful shaping of modern history. The footnotes, selected bibliography, and index are phenomenal ... Essential. (CHOICE)
Historians and the Church of England explores the vital relationship between the Church of England and the development of historical scholarship in the Victorian and Edwardian era. It draws upon a wide range of sources, from canonical works of history to unpublished letters, from sermons to periodical articles, to give a clear picture of the influence of religion upon the rich and flourishing world of English historical scholarship.
The result is a radically revised understanding of both historiography and the Church of England. It shows that the main historiographical topics at the time-the nation, the constitution, the Reformation, and (increasingly) socio-economic history-were all imprinted with the distinctively Anglican concerns of leading historians. It brings to life the ideas of time, progress, and divine providence which structured their understanding of the past. It also shows that the Church of England remained a 'learned church', concerned not just with narrowly religious functions but also scholarly and cultural ones, into the early twentieth century: intellectual secularization was a slower and more fragmented process than accounts focused on natural science (especially Darwinism) to the exclusion of the humanities have led us to believe.
This is not just the history of a coterie of scholars, but also of a wealth of texts and ideas that had a truly global circulation at a time when history was second only to the Bible (and perhaps the novel) in its cultural status and readership.
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