Thursday, November 30, 2006

A consumer society

In the eighteenth century many ordinary people, especially in urban areas, began to acquire consumer goods. This coincided with improvements in communications, housing and postal services.

Some commentators (such as Smollett) deeply disapproved of consumerism, linking it to the 'luxury' that was believed to have brought about the fall of the Roman Empire. Others, like Dr Johnson, saw it as the means of spreading prosperity among the poor.

Trade and Empire
The growth in consumerism was linked with international trade, which, between 1740 and 1780 increased by a third, and was one of the most remarkable periods of expansion in modern history. The original impetus came from outside Europe. A demographic surge in China created a consumer demand which attracted growing numbers of British and Dutch merchants. The Chinese gold they brought back to Europe, together with the rapidly expanding output of the Brazilian mines, helped alleviate the chronic shortage of specie, and allowed the stabilization of European currencies. It was also linked with the growth of Empires.

In the eighteenth century products from the tropics and sub-tropics became commonplace, with huge commercial and political repercussions.

Consumer goods
From the 1650s, as inventories and criminal records reveal, ordinary people began to acquire possessions that had previously been the preserve of the elite. They slept on mattresses rather than loose straw and sometimes in beds. They began to sleep apart from their children, not in separate rooms, but in separate beds. They bought additional clothing, most of it second-hand. By the end of the eighteenth century an increased amount of clothing and bedding was made from cotton. Ordinary urban dwellers began to use wallpaper and buy clocks and watches. In 1675 only one in ten Londoners’ inventories after death mentions clocks; in 1715 more than half did. It was the age of the small shopkeeper. In England the word ‘shoplift’ was used from the 1680s.

From the late 17th century people began drinking hot drinks (tea, coffee, chocolate) from china cups and many social occasions focused around the consumption of these drinks. Surveys of probate inventories and the Old Bailey records of stolen goods suggest that the 1720s saw a marked extension into the middling ranks of china, porcelain, tea and coffee pots, knives and forks and glassware. In 1675 only 9 % of English families had pewter plates. In 1725 they were owned by 45%. But pewter was going out of fashion as households that owned earthenware rose from 27 to 57%. By 1725 cups and other utensils for hot drinks were to be found in 15% of European families.

Walnut was being replaced by mahogany, a tropical American hardwood first imported to England in the 1670s. The historian Amanda Vickery has described how the Lancashire gentlewoman Elizabeth Shackleton bought mahogany furniture from Gillows of Lancaster.

The Chinese probably made the first true porcelain during the Tang dynasty (618-907) and for centuries they made the world’s finest porcelain (‘china ware’). By the 1100s the secret of making porcelain had spread to Korea, and in the 1500s and to Japan. As trade with the Orient grew during the 17th century porcelain (named from the Latin porcella, a sow) became popular with Europeans. By 1791 the East India Company had imported 215 million pieces of porcelain.
But by the early 18th century porcelain was also manufactured in many parts of Europe and beginning to compete with Chinese porcelain. In 1756 the town of Sèvres began producing its characteristic soft-paste porcelain. Hard-paste porcelain (Dresden ware) was produced at Meissen in Saxony from 1710.

Worcester porcelain was first produced in 1751. During its early years the factory produced soft-paste porcelain, much of it decorated with Chinese designs in blue underglaze. The willow pattern is said to have originated c. 1780 at the Caughley Porcelain works in Shropshire. It tells the story of Koongse and her lover Chang.

Cream ware: Cream coloured earthenware was first produced in Staffordshire between 1730 and 1740. The principal ingredients were white-firing clay and ground flint, the flint being used to increase the whiteness and strength of the composition. The result was a durable body, varying in tone from buff to a deep cream colour, which required the application of a clear lead glaze and a second firing to make it impervious to liquids.

Josiah Wedgwood (1730-95) carried out an enormous number of trials to perfect the cream coloured earthenware body. He commenced work whilst still in partnership with Thomas Whieldon in Fenton, although his first really successful cream ware was produced at his Ivy House Works after 1759. It is probable that cream ware was amongst the first of Wedgwood’s productions as an independent manufacturer.

In 1765 Wedgwood opened his first London showrooms in Charles Street, off Grosvenor Square, and in June he received a commission to make an elaborate tea service in green and gold creamware for Queen Charlotte. In the following year he was officially appointed potter to her majesty and his creamware was renamed Queen's ware.

In 1770 Wedgwood received his first order from Empress Catherine II of Russia. Three years later she commissioned a large dinner and dessert service of nearly 1000 pieces for the Chesmensky Palace, familiarly known as La Grenouillière (the frog marsh). The ‘Frog’ service, then the largest ever ordered from a British potter, was decorated with hand-painted landscapes and a frog emblem at Wedgwood's Chelsea decorating studio, and supervised by Bentley. Its completion in 1774 marked the removal of the firm's London showrooms from Great Newport Street to even larger premises in Greek Street, where the service was displayed, by invitation, to the public. (This great service is now permanently exhibited at the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.) This was the most influential development in the history of British pottery. It achieved almost a monopoly of the high-quality earthenware tableware market in Europe.

Wedgwood was a skilled marketer. From 1772 it was Wedgwood's policy to mark everything made at his Etruria works in Staffordshire. He was the first earthenware potter consistently to mark his goods and the first ever to use his own name, which was impressed in the clay. He and Bentley undertook market research, cultivating influential patrons (several of whom permitted him to copy objects in their private collections), enlisting the help of ambassadors, and taking pains to produce wares suited to specific markets. In 1771–2, in a daring and ultimately successful experiment in inertia selling, unsolicited parcels of ware were sent to many of the noble houses of Germany in the hope of attracting orders and advertising the quality of the goods. Between 1773 and 1787 Wedgwood issued illustrated catalogues of his Queen's ware and ornamental wares, the later editions being published in French, German, and Dutch translations.

Coffee is indigenous to Abyssinia and Arabia. It was first mentioned by an Arab physician at the end of 9th century. In the 15 and16 centuries it was cultivated in Yemen. In 1600 it was cultivated in India. The Dutch transported a coffee plant from Mocha to Holland in 1616 and started to cultivate it in Ceylon in 1658 and in Java in 1696.

The first coffee house opened in St Mark’s Square, Venice, in 1647. In 1650 the first English coffee house opened in Oxford. It was called the Angel and run by a Lebanese called Jacob. London’s first coffee house opened 1652 at the sign of Pasqua Rosee's Head in Change Alley, Cornhill. By Queen Anne’s death there were 500 coffee houses in London. In 1660 the Café Procope in Paris was the forerunner of numerous French coffee houses.

Tea was predominantly a domestic beverage and consumed by women as much as men. Many female domestic servants allegedly refused to work in any establishment where tea was not provided.

Until the Assam plantations were cultivated in the 1820s, tea came from China. It had been known there since 273BC. The first reference in Japan dates from AD 815. In 1595 and 1599 Jan Hugo van Linschooten sailed to India with the Portuguese and published an account of his travels which included a section on tea. In 1595 Portuguese harbours were closed to Dutch. This encouraged exploration in Java. In 1602 the Dutch East India Company was founded. In 1607 the first Dutch ship reached Japan and took tea to Java. In 1610 first tea transported to Holland from Java

The word tea (used in all European countries except Portugal and Russia) is based on tay from the Amoy dialect rather than the Cantonese ch'a. This is because the Dutch had established Batavia as a base in Java in 1596 and traded with ships from Amoy. The Portuguese traded out of Macao where Cantonese was spoken.

Pepys first drank tea in 1660. His wife tried it on the recommendation of an apothecary. In 1713 the East India Company negotiated a right of access to Canton and from then on regular supplies could be guaranteed. In 1706 the first tea shop was opened in the Strand by Thomas Twining to cater for ladies of fashion. It allowed women to mix shopping and pleasure and proved extremely popular. At home the tea party was a very inclusive event, a ceremony performed with kettle, teapot, china and silver. Ladies offered tea in the parlour in the same way as gentlemen bought ale in the tavern – it was all part of 18th century sociability. By 1720 9 million pounds were shipped in by the East India Company, increasing to 37 million by mid-century – in spite of punitive duties and the complaints of moralists like Jonas Hanway.

Tea, coffee and chocolate were all drunk with sugar. The production of sugar, first from cane and later from beets, is one of the oldest and best studied technological processes. As early as 327 B.C. Alexander the Great reported cultivation of sugar cane in India. At that time, sugar was extracted from the cane by chewing and sucking. Later, a syrup was extracted by means of pressing and boiling the cane. This process which was first practiced in India in about 300 A.D. became the basis for producing sugar in solid form.

Sugar arrived in Europe from the crusades but it was initially a rare and expensive commodity. In the 1390s, a better press, which doubled the juice obtained from the cane, was developed. This permitted the economic expansion of sugar plantations to Andalusia and the Algarve. In the 1420s, sugar was carried to the Canaries, Madeira and Porto Santa Maria.

In 1493, Columbus stopped at Gomera in the Canary Islands, for wine and water. He stayed a month and when he finally sailed he took with him cuttings of sugarcane to Santo Domingo, the first to reach the New World. The Portuguese took sugar to Brazil. Approximately 3000 small mills built before 1550 in the New World created an unprecedented demand for cast iron gears, levers, axes and other implements. Specialist in mold making and iron casting were inevitably created in Europe by the expansion of sugar. After 1625, the Dutch carried sugarcane from South America to the Caribbean islands from Barbados to the Virgin Islands.

Sugar entered Britain in the 17th century as an apothecary’s ingredient. It was commonly sold in solid cones and required a sugar nip to break off pieces. A few thousand tons were imported in the 1650s; 23,000 tons in 1700; 245,000 in 1800.8 Sugar halved in retail price during the 17th century and dropped a further 20% by 1750. Total sugar imports for domestic consumption doubled from the 1660s to the end of the 17th century and doubled again by the 1730s.

With the European colonization of the Americas, the Caribbean became the world's largest source of sugar. Sugar cane could be grown on these island at vastly lower prices than sugar beets could be grown in Europe, or cane sugar imported from the East. Reacting to this increasing craze, the islands took advantage of the situation and produced up to ninety percent of the sugar that the western Europeans consumed. The largest sugar producer in the world, by 1750, was the French colony known as Saint-Domingue (Haiti). Sugar counted for 93% of the exports of Barbados.

African slaves became the preferred plantation worker as they were better able to fight off the diseases of malaria and yellow fever than the European indentured servants. (Most local Native Americans had died from European diseases like smallpox.)

Tobacco is native to the Americas. It began as an apothecary’s ingredient and alehouses provided both tobacco and china-clay pipes for their patrons. It was increasingly provided in shops. Smoking quickly became a masculine pursuit (though Dr Johnson’s wife, Tetty, was a life-long smoker). It was first grown commercially round Chesapeake Bay (the border between Maryland and Virginia) when in 1612 John Rolfe introduced a superior species of tobacco from Trinidad. The imported plants (Nicotiana tabacum) flourished in the Tidewater's soil and climate; soon a tobacco craze hit Virginia. The early settlers of Maryland followed suit and by mid-century, the Chesapeake colonies were exporting large and profitable tobacco cargoes, and their prosperity thereafter rose and fell with fluctuations in the international market. From 1617 to 1793 tobacco was the most valuable staple export from the English American mainland colonies and (later) the United States. The quantity of tobacco shipped to Great Britain rose from twenty thousand pounds in 1617 to over 40 million pounds in 1727. The main port of entry was Glasgow – this was the reason why the Glasgow merchants were overwhelmingly in support of the union with England in 1707.

The outbreak of the American War of Independence in 1775 sparked the beginning of the end of the tobacco age. The American planters were heavily in debt to the Glasgow merchants and collection of these debts was impossible during hostilities. Glasgow tobacco fleets were also seriously threatened by hostile action. In 1783 when peace came, the now independent United States could send tobacco direct to Europe, cutting out the Glasgow merchants.

Tobacco profits dramatically increased the demand for labour. When early hopes that the Indians would work for the English proved ephemeral, a system of indentured labour (whereby one worked usually for four or five years in exchange for passage to America and all necessities during the period of service) was linked to head rights of fifty acres of land (sometimes one hundred acres in Maryland) to anyone who paid a person's passage to the colony. Indentured servants remained an important part of the Chesapeake labour force throughout the colonial era, but by the late seventeenth century they were no longer its core. In the eighteenth century, Maryland imported substantial numbers of British convicts as bound labourers, usually with terms of seven years, but again the supply fell short of the need.

Rice was to Carolina what tobacco was to the Chesapeake. From the middle of the eighteenth century it was also grown in Georgia. It was the fourth most valuable export crop from British America after tobacco, sugar and wheat.

Arab merchants brought cotton cloth to Europe about 800 A.D. When Columbus discovered America in 1492, he found cotton growing in the Bahamas. By 1500, cotton was known generally throughout the world. Cotton seed are believed to have been planted in Florida in 1556 and in Virginia in 1607. By 1616, colonists were growing cotton along the James River in Virginia. During the 18th century an increasing number of clothes were made from cotton, which was lighter and easier to keep clean than wool. The invention of the cotton gin in the USA in 1793 greatly speeded up the production of cotton, and increased the prosperity of Liverpool and Manchester.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Evangelical revival

This is a huge subject and this post only scratches the surface.

Historical context
The Evangelical revival began in the 1730s in the context of developments in Britain, Europe and the American colonies. These included the relative decline of Old Dissent (Baptists, Independents), the dominance of High Church and Latitudinarian elements in the Church of England, the influence of German pietism in the form of the Moravians and the work of the revivalist preacher Jonathan Edwards in Massachusetts. More controversially, some historians have seen the Enlightenment as a key influence.

From the 1670s Pietism became a new force within German Lutheranism, springing from unease at the inadequacies of the established church. The Pietist minister Philipp Jakob Spener, who worked at Strasbourg and Frankfurt, was concerned to work through the existing structures of church life to bring back a more personal religion to the Lutheran world. This involved encouraging the laity to form devotional societies (collegia pietatis) for prayer and study. The pietists were much helped by the hymn writer Paul Gerhardt (Wesley learned German so that he could translate pietist hymns into English).

Pietism found a base in the new university of Halle (founded 1694), which would train thousands of pastors.

The Moravians
One group which did separate out of the pietists had an influence out of proportion to its size. The Moravians (the Unitas Fratrum) traced their origin to the 15th century Hussites in Bohemia and Moravia. During the 16th and 17th centuries they survived as a movement though persecuted by the Counter-Reformation and suppressed by the Peace of Westphalia.

In 1722 a group of families adhering to the tradition of the Bohemian Brethren fled Moravia and settled on the estate of Spener’s godson, Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf (1700-60), a nobleman and civil servant from Saxony. The Herrnhut community became the mother community of what was to be the Moravian Church, and the centre of Moravian work all over the world. In 1732 the first Moravian missionaries left Herrnhut to work among the black slaves in the West Indies.

The Moravians came to London in 1734 en route to mission work in the American colonies, and made contacts that led to the formation of the Fetter Lane Society. In 1735 they began work in Georgia among the dispossessed German Protestants who had taken refuge there.

The British Revival

Wales: In Wales, paradoxically, a sustained campaign of Anglicization generated a thoroughly Welsh, dissenting religious revival. Griffith Jones (1683-1761) worked for the SPCK to set up schools in Wales; Howell Harris (1714-1773) began itinerant preaching immediately after his conversion; he repeatedly sought ordination but was refused.

Scotland: The Established Church in Scotland was the Presbyterian Church. It faced a continual crisis over the issue of lay patronage, which led to schisms from the Kirk. It treated the Highlands as a missionary area, then one third of the population of Scotland.
In February 1742 a revival began in Cambuslang, south-east of Glasgow. In mid-July George Whitefield arrived there and 20,000 appeared there the day before communion. The following month 30,000 turned up.

England: The political context is very important for understanding the Evangelical revival in England. During Walpole’s long period as Prime Minister there was a deep revulsion at what was seen as the corruption of political life. Religious disaffection at Walpole’s failure to accept any programme for church reform merged with Tory ‘country’ traditions. By the 1730s there were a number of ‘religious societies’ of disaffected Anglicans, mainly in places of anti-court sentiment, such as London, Bristol and Newcastle. These showed a remarkable capacity for absorption and they quickly drew in the Moravians.

The Methodists
The first prominent Methodist was not John Wesley but George Whitefield (1714-70), who was converted in 1735, three years before Wesley, and who at the time of Wesley’s conversion was already using open-air preaching to dramatic effect.

John Wesley (1703-91) was born to parents who were politically divided. Both were Tories but Samuel accepted William as King and Susanna did not. The Anglican Church he knew as a young man was dominated by the Latitudinarians. As a result he started off his religious career with a High Church viewpoint out of step with the main establishment. He entered Christ Church, Oxford (a High Church stronghold), in 1720. He and graduated in 1724. In 1728 he was ordained priest. In 1729 he returned to Oxford to fulfil the residential requirements of his fellowship. There he joined his brother Charles and others in a religious study group, the ‘Holy Club’, one of a number of societies of devout young men. These societies were concerned with the ‘reformation of manners’ – attacking swearing, blasphemy and Sabbath-breaking. The ordered lifestyle and High Church piety of the Oxford club earned them the nickname ‘Methodists’.

Following his father’s death in 1735 Wesley was persuaded by the Jacobite Colonel, James Edward Oglethorpe, founder and governor of Georgia, to oversee the spiritual lives of the colonists and to missionize the Indians as an agent for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. While travelling out there he and Charles were much impressed by the piety and courage of the Moravians, who were also travelling there. Wesley’s stiff High Church piety antagonized many of the colonists, and many quarrels broke out. The worst concerned a naive attachment to the niece of the chief magistrate of Savannah. In December 1737 Wesley virtually fled from Georgia.

Back in London he met a Moravian, Peter Böhler, who convinced him that what he needed was simply faith. On 24 May 1738, he attended a Moravian mission in Aldersgate - an experience that was a turning point for him. It added a Protestant Evangelical fire to the Anglican Catholicism of his youth.

He then embarked on a lifetime’s mission throughout the British Isles in which he travelled over 200,000 miles and preached over 40,000 sermons. He quickly found that the ancient parochial structure of England was inadequate to his purpose and was not adapted to new population movements. In 1739 he was invited by Whitefield to come to Bristol and help preach to the colliers at Kingswood Chase. He came and found himself, much against his will, preaching in the open air. This enterprise was the beginning of the Methodist revival. Wesley was astonished at the dramatic results that followed, and the mass emotion of the crowds. Soon he was building up ‘societies’ which took the Oxford nickname, ‘Methodists’.

The Methodist society started at the Old Foundry, Moorfields, London and quickly spread to Bristol. As the new buildings went up the Methodists became institutionalized, though they were still part of the Church of England. Wesley always declared that the Methodists were a ‘society’ or a ‘connexion’ not a church but by the time of the great controversy with the Calvinists in 1771 Methodists numbered just over 26,000; by the time of his death in 1791 they were nearly 57,000.

In the early days of Methodism, Whitefield was better known than Wesley. It was he who first preached to the Kingswood miners. He established himself in London at the Moorfields Tabernacle (1741) and the Tottenham Court Chapel (1756).

The two men worked together for a while but as early as the 1740s differences surfaced over predestination. Whitefield and Selina Countess of Huntingdon (1707-91) were Calvinists. Whitefield became her chaplain in 1748. Following his death she set up her own chapels in the spa towns, Bath, Brighton, Tunbridge Wells. In 1768 she founded Trevecca College in Wales under the superintendence of Howel Harris for the training of ‘her’ clergy. In 1779 the Consistory Court in London disavowed her claim to appoint as many chaplains as she chose ; she therefore seceded from the Church of England and set up her ‘Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion’.

The Calvinist Methodists were only really successful in Wales. Their comparative failure in England can be ascribed in part by Whitefield’s failure to make legal provisions for his Connexion.

Wesley’s brand of Evangelical Arminianism was a distinct body of thought within Evangelicalism. His position within the Church was anomalous. What was the status of his congregations in Presbyterian Scotland? What about the law in England, which stated that all unauthorized religious buildings had to be licensed as Dissenting chapels? In 1787 Wesley reluctantly advised his societies that this had to be done.

A second, more serious force was pushing him away from the Church of England. Methodists in America found their work seriously affected when war broke out, and with the withdrawal of many Anglican clergy there was no-one to whom his followers could go to receive Communion. Accordingly in 1784 he took a stand on his own rights as an ordained priest of the Church of England to ordain men on his own initiative. With great inconsistency he was furious when the leaders of the American Methodists allowed themselves to be called bishops!

In 1784 Wesley drew up a Deed of Declaration; this appointed a Conference of 100 men (the ‘Legal Hundred’) to govern the Church after his death.

Do you want to read Wesley's sermons? Possibly not, but if you do, this website is the place to go to.

There is a useful timeline of Wesley's life here.

The Methodists aroused extraordinary hostility. In 1748, for example, Wesley received a physical battering at Calne when the local curate advertised for volunteers to attack him. The war waged on the Staffordshire Methodists in 1743 and 1744 was perhaps the most bitter of all such campaigns of intimidation. They were ‘irregular’, they conducted mass meetings, and they arose at a time of deep political controversy. Their class meetings subverted the existing hierarchical society. They had (from the 1770s) women preachers such as Mary Bosqanquet They arose at a sensitive political time. They were thought to be Jesuits in disguise. Very soon they were accused of Jacobitism. At the end of the 18th century, the time of the French Revolution, they were accused of Jacobinism.

They were constantly accused of superstition, credulity, extravagant behaviour. When James Boswell expressed belief in the second sight, the duchess of Argyll put him down with ‘I fancy you will turn Methodist’.

Public Advertiser, 28 Feb. 1774:
‘The Methodists have got such Hold of the weak Part of Mankind, that if any of these People meet with any Opposition or Contradiction, they think they have a Right to take away their own Lives; on Wednesday last one of these infatuated Men threw himself into the River in this Town [Brigg]; and notwithstanding the Remonstrances and Endeavours of several Persons present, obstinately drowned himself.’
Anglican Evangelicals
The awakening was wider than Methodism and included prominent clergy such as Samuel Walker of Truro and William Grimshaw of Haworth, who never adopted Methodist itinerancy. In Olney William Cowper and John Newton produced the Olney Hymns (1779). Newton’s Authentic Narrative (1764) provided the record of his conversion and his previous life as a slave-trader. In 1780 Richard Cecil took over the proprietary chapel of St John’s Bedford Row. These Anglicans were the spiritual fathers of the age of Wilberforce, whose conversion in 1785 marked a new development in the history of Evangelicalism.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Religion in the eighteenth century

Voltaire saw religious liberty as characteristic of England.
‘Everyone is permitted to serve God in whatever way he thinks proper.’
Strictly speaking, this was not the case. The 1698 Blasphemy Act made denying the doctrine of the Trinity, the truth of Christianity, or the authority of Scripture punishable by up to three years’ imprisonment. (For the notorious case of Thomas Aikenhead in Scotland, see here. For the case of the Chevalier de la Barre in France, see here, if you read French.)

In England the Blasphemy Law was rarely invoked. Since the Toleration Act of 1689 the Church of England had lost its powers to compel church attendance. Even before 1689 it had never provided a truly national religion. England (to a lesser extent Scotland) was a religiously diverse country. The Church of England was itself divided with bitter conflicts between Whigs and high Tories. The parish structure was proving inadequate in an age of population growth and incipient industrialization. New, disorderly settlements, such as the Kingswood colliery near Bristol, were not amenable to clerical control.

The 27 Anglican dioceses differed in size and wealth. Rochester had fewer than 150 parishes, Lincoln over 1500. Sodor and Man was the smallest (no seat in the Lords). There were great variations in episcopal income. Bishops were increasingly aristocratic; the fathers of over 20% of George III’s bishops were connected with the peerage. But it was also a career open to talent (Potter, Gibson, Warburton, Hurd). The annual Parliamentary session kept the bishops in London for a considerable time each year.

Anglican public worship was uniform: matins, ante-communion, sermon; evensong in the afternoon. There was great regional variation over the practice of ‘double duty’. Very few parishes fell below the canonical minimum of three communion services a year.

The parish churches we see today are the result of Victorian alterations: the raised steps leading to the altar in the east end of the church, the candles on the altar, the pews. Eighteenth-century churches had boxed pews that were rented out and opened by a pew-opener. The pulpit is likely to have been three-decker.

An age of negligence?
The historiography of the 18th century church has been dominated by anachronistic Victorian criticisms (Evangelical and Tractarian) that it was corrupt, materialistic and spiritually moribund. This was essentially a criticism of latitudinarian Whig bishops like Benjamin Hoadley (1676-1761) who insisted that the Church was subordinate to the state and never visited his diocese of Bangor in the six years he was bishop. But modern scholarship has found much evidence of conscientious Episcopal administration. The evidence of visitation returns suggests that the Church was more successful in maintaining frequent services than its critics claimed.
Clergy were now almost entirely graduates, and Queen Anne’s Bounty relieved much clerical poverty. But pluralism and non-residence were constant problems and were an open invitation to Dissenters and anti-clericals to attack the Church. Few new churches were built, but many galleries were put in.

Voluntary religious activity was a remarkable feature of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge (founded 1698) printed Christian literature and promoted and co-ordinated the operation of hundreds of local charity schools. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (founded 1701) promoted overseas missions. The volume of religious publications remained high. On average nearly 100 sermons a year went into print during the first half of the 18th century. The hymns of Isaac Watts were widely sung (though hymn singing was not an official part of Anglican worship until the 1820s).

Personal religious attitudes are harder to quantify. But diaries, the contents of libraries and periodicals, literature painting and music show the evidence of Christian belief. Endowments of churches and schools are another form of evidence. There was still a large demand for religious chapbooks and ‘godly broadsides’. Popular superstition remained high – represented by almanacs and fortune tellers. John Wesley continued to believe in witches.

However, much of the higher reaches of the Church and the university of Cambridge in particular were dominated by latitudinarian or even deist thinking – a stress on natural rather than supernatural religion and reason rather then ‘enthusiasm’. Much of this was a reaction to the ‘fanaticism’ of the 17th century. This could lead to heresy or unbelief, but the commonest reaction was blandness.

There was no coherent alternative to Christianity. The scepticism of Gibbon and Hume was not representative. Bernard Mandeville was very secular in his thinking and John Wilkes notoriously anti-religious, but it is hard to know how widespread such attitudes were.

The Dissenting denominations were Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists and Quakers. The Toleration Act gave freedom of worship to all but Unitarians, but required them to register their places of worship and ensure that only officially licensed preachers conducted Sunday services. In spite of these difficulties between 1689 and 1710 nearly 4,000 Dissenting chapels and meeting houses were licensed though their numbers were probably stagnant.

Because the Church of England dominated the countryside and the universities, Dissenting chapels were found predominantly in urban areas and were frequented by the middling sort. The sacramental tests acted as a barrier to the more lucrative and prestigious public offices, though after 1745 the passage of a series of annual Indemnity Acts increased the difficulty of prosecuting non-Anglican office-holders under the Test Acts, and Presbyterian businessmen effectively dominated several towns.

Case study: Bristol, which next to London had the largest Dissenting community in London, is a good example of this. The Dissenters, including many Baptists, were involved in local government from the highest to the lowest offices. Between 1754-84, 11 members of Lewins Mead Presbyterian chapel held the office of mayor, thus tying up the post for more than a third of the period. The unusually high occupational status of the Bristol Dissenters is confirmed by their dominance in local politics. Dissenters held one of the two sheriff’s seats for 15 of these 30 years and between 1771 and 1776 they did so without a break.

Dissenters could therefore vote and stand for Parliament, but only 25 Dissenting MPs have been identified between 1715 and 1760. The Lords was even more of an Anglican preserve. It was not possible for Dissenters to matriculate at Oxford and Cambridge, as this required subscription to the Thirty-Nine Articles.

Among Dissenting grievances was the fact that besides supporting their own chapels and meeting-houses, they had to pay local church fees - rates and tithes. Following Hardwicke’s Marriage Act (1753) they could only be lawfully married in a parish church by a clergyman of the Church of England, yet they might be denied right of burial in a local churchyard.
Presbyterianism gave birth to what became virtually a separate Unitarian movement.

Roman Catholics
Catholics were just 1% of the population (at most 60-80,000 people), clustered geographically in Lancashire, Staffordshire, the north-east,West Sussex and London, under the authority of a vicar apostolic. Until the Irish immigration at the end of the century, they were expanding at a slower rate than the population as a whole. Catholics had to pay a double rate of land tax, and faced numerous restrictions on residence and travel. Yet enforcement was always patchy. Until the Catholic Relief Acts of 1778 and 1791 (scroll down) penal laws made it difficult for Catholics to worship openly (and keep within the law) and to inherit property. With the relaxing of the law, life became easier. In 1792 Winchester Catholics erected an elaborate Gothic church.

Catholics were at pains to stress their loyalty to the Crown. From 1766 (the year of the Old Pretender’s death) the vicars apostolic ordered their clergy to pray for the King.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Thomas Coram and the Foundling Hospital

Captain Thomas Coram (c. 1668-1751) retired to Rotherhithe in 1719 after achieving success in the New World, establishing a shipwright's business in Boston, and later in Taunton, Massachusetts.

On his frequent walks through the City on winter mornings, Coram was appalled at the sight of dead and dying babies abandoned on the streets. This inspired him to take action. In 1722, inspired by the foundling hospitals on the Continent, he advocated one for London. His idea was to petition the king for a charter to create a non-profit-making organization supported by subscriptions, but at first this met with no success. He found it impossible to gain the support of anyone influential enough to approach the king and there continued to be great opposition to the idea of a Foundling Hospital established, partly because it was considered to encourage wantonness and prostitution.

The turning point in Coram’s campaign was the ‘ladies petition’ of 1729 signed by 21 peeresses, and the patronage of Queen Caroline. His petitions came before the king in council in July 1737. Subscriptions poured in and on 17 October 1739 the King signed a Royal Charter for a hospital for the ‘education and maintenance of exposed and deserted young children’. The Governors and Guardians of this new enterprise met to receive the Charter on 20th November 1739 at Somerset House. The group included many of the important figures of the day: dukes and earls, magnates and merchant bankers. Supporters of standing included Dr Richard Mead (the foremost physician) and the artist William Hogarth.

The first children were admitted on 25th March 1741, into a temporary house in Hatton Garden. Scenes of extraordinary drama and poignancy followed as the cries of the departing mothers and children echoed through the night.

The Governors began the search for a permanent site that would house the purpose-built hospital. A solution was found in the area known as Bloomsbury Fields, the earl of Salisbury's estate, lying north of Great Ormond Street and west of Gray's Inn Lane. It consisted of 56 acres of land amidst green fields. The price was £7000, the earl himself donating £500 of this to the Hospital. The first children were received on 1 October 1745. In 1750 a benefit concert of the Messiah was performed there. Hogarth was both a governor and a benefactor.

The hospital quickly became one of the sights of London and wealthy ladies watched from behind screens as the mothers had their babies accepted or turned away. Babies had to be turned away because there were never enough places as women poured in from the provinces in order to place their children. By 1770 parliamentary grants had ceased and the hospital became a private establishment relying on voluntary subscriptions.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The great Enlightenment love affair

As a diversion from purely British history, you might enjoy reading this review in the Telegraph of David Bodanis's Passionate Minds: the great Enlightenment love affair. The subject of this book is Emilie du Châtelet, Voltaire's mistress and (more importantly) a considerable scientist in her own right. And this is a different type of book altogether from Nancy Mitford's frothy Voltaire in Love which purports to deal with the same subject.

Du Châtelet's greatest achievement was to translate Newton's Principia into French. She also, as the review in the Economist (not on line) points out, 'exposed Newton's obscure geometric proofs using the more accessible language of calculus. And she teased out of his convoluted web of theorems the crucial implications for the study of gravity and energy. That laid the foundation for the next century's discoveries in theoretical physics.'

She died from a childbirth infection, aged 42.

The book raises important issues for October and February starters alike. Was there a role for passion as well as reason in the Enlightenment? Did women have an Enlightenment? If so, why are the female philosophes and intellectuals so much less well known than the men?

PS. The Guardian reviewer thinks du Châtelet's achievements have been exaggerated.

Eighteenth-century philanthropy

Although the eighteenth century has a reputation for lax morals (and this may be true when it is compared with the Victorian period) it was also an age of profound moral earnestness and of burgeoning philanthropy. One of the key moral values was ‘benevolence’. Both the aristocracy and the middling sort founded and contributed to numerous and varied charities, which acted as a sort of proto-welfare state.

Besides ‘benevolence’ there were other motives for charity. One was ‘social control’ – fears of a moral collapse among the ‘common people’ and the desire for trustworthy servants. Another was the fear that the population was declining and the consequent need to save lives – especially young lives.

The most modern forms of charity were subscription charities. The first efflorescence of these charities occurred in the 1690s alongside other forms of subscription association such as the Reformation of Manners societies and the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge. Certain features marked the new charities out:
(a) They were not linked by any formal ties to the apparatus of local government and they drew no revenue from any form of taxation.
(b) They devoted considerable care and energy to wooing subscribers, often publishing annual reports and subscribers’ names.
(c) They commonly gave subscribers a voice, even outright control over management.
Below are a series of posts relating to various eighteenth-century charities.

Charity schools

Charity schools, which emerged at the end of the 17th century and burgeoned in the 18th century, were the first widely popular form of subscription charity. They arose to supply the need for trustworthy servants and in early 18th century London they were the chief outlet of philanthropy. In the 1690s they were no more than a handful; by 1700 there were 112, educating 2597 boys and 1490 girls. In 1723 the high water mark was reached when 1,329 charity schools were recorded, though the numbers then remained static until the 1770s. One reason for the decline in growth lies in the fact that after 1714 the Whigs suspected them of Jacobitism.

Education: They provided education in the 3 Rs but at their heart was Christian instruction. They were catechitical schools established to give instruction in reading the Bible and the catechism and sometimes (in the cases of the boys) in writing and casting accounts. The children, who attended between the ages of 6 and 10, received instruction and clothing which marked them off from grammar school children and those in the private venture schools. On Sundays the teachers accompanied the pupils to church and sat with them in pews reserved for them.

Teachers: These were required by the SPCK to be communicant members of the Church of England, of ‘meek temper and humble behaviour’. London charity-school masters were full-time teachers. They had to be in school from 7 to 11 am and 1-5pm in summer (with shorter hours for winter. The men had to be able to ‘write a good hand’ and understand basic arithmetic. They had to be approved by the minister of the parish. Women teachers were not required to understand arithmetic.

Financing: Some children paid a nominal sum, others had their schooling financed by charity. The subscription schools drew funds not only from the well-to-do but also from substantial numbers of the middling sort. The funds and the administration were vested in trustees, usually members of families resident in the neighbourhood. Charity sermons were an important money-raising device.

From the mid 18th century subscriptions fell off and many schools had to depend on charity sermons and personal bequests. The decline was probably caused by minimal population growth and signs of a labour shortage in the 1730s and40s. By the end of the century, when the population began to rise, charity schools were overtaken by Sunday schools, which had the advantage of not taking the children away from work.

Charity schools flourished in the provinces. The first parish based school in Bristol was sparked by a bequest in 1699, which allowed for the education of seven poor orphans of Temple parish. It was founded by Arthur Bedford, vicar of the Temple church; the patron was Edward Colston. Bedford was a correspondent for the SPCK.

Case study: Mary Webb’s school, Fishponds, Bristol. The school was set up following the will of Mary Webb, dated 15 October 1729. The school was to be set up in the parish of Stapleton for teaching ‘Twenty poor Boys and Ten poor Girls’ and the master was to be paid £15 pa.; the remaining part of the charity was to provide an almshouse and 12d a week for ‘three poor old Women’ of the parish.


For most of the 18th and 19th centuries hospitals were the resort solely of the poor; the better off were treated in their own homes. There is no evidence that hospital treatment improved the health of the patients!

St Thomas’s Hospital had been refounded in Southwark in 1551 on a former monastic foundation. In 1693 the governors decided to rebuild and the rebuilding was completed in 1709. Over 250 patients could be accommodated in wards each containing 12 to 29 beds. The finest room in the hospital was the governors’ hall where gold-lettered wall tablets recorded the names of subscribers.

Some of the earliest of the new general hospitals were foundation charities paid for by wealthy philanthropists. The physician John Radcliffe (d. 1714) of Oxford left a bequest for both the extension of St Bartholomew’s in London and the erection of the Radcliffe Infirmary in his home town. Another physician John Addenbrooke (d. 1719) of Cambridge He left a modest fortune ‘to hire, fit-up, purchase or erect a building fit for a small physicall hospital for poor people’—an intention only disclosed in his will. Though the master and fellows of St Catharine's were given responsibility as trustees, the will was only implemented with the aid of subscriptions and an Act of Parliament. The hospital was not completed until October 1766.

Guy’s Hospital was chartered by Act of Parliament following the will of Thomas Guy (d. 1724). He profited greatly from well-timed investments in South Sea stock and the hospital was founded from the bulk of his fortune of £200,000. It was intended for 400 sick persons deemed to be incurable for treatment elsewhere and took in 2,000 patients per annum. A ward for incurable lunatics was also established.

But Guy’s was not typical. The other general hospitals established at this time were subscription. They were entirely dependant on gifts and legacies and there were administered by governors appointed by the subscribers.
1720: Westminster; this was largely due to the initiative of Henry Hoare, banker of Stourhead.
1733: St George’s
1740: London (by 1785, 7,000 patients a year)
1745: Middlesex

With very few exceptions the management and administration of provincial hospitals were entirely in the hands of all male subscribers of 2 guineas per annum and benefactors of £20, otherwise known as governors, each of whom had the right to recommend patients and to have a vote in the management of affairs. Women made up to 10-20% of annual hospital contributors and up to 25% of weekly ones, but they had to exercise their privileges by proxy.

The potential for undue influence by the elites was circumscribed by the use of ballots during contested elections and second by the rule that the accounts had to be opened to any subscriber. Persons whose subscriptions were not paid up were excluded from privileges.

The enthusiasm of the medical profession aroused fears that infirmaries were being used to carry out experiments on the poor. But the main benefit for physicians lay in the fact that they were permitted and expected to have paying pupils of their own in attendance.

The London hospitals carried out an increasingly specialized range of treatments:
1749: British Lying-in Hospital in Long Acre
1750: City of London Lying-in Hospital
1752: General Lying-in Hospital (later Queen Charlotte’s)

1746: two smallpox hospitals were founded.
1746: the Lock Hospital for venereal diseases: patients received moral instruction as well as medical care. It was closely associated with Lady Huntingdon’s Connexion. Her preacher, Martin Madam, was her chaplain until his public advocacy of polygamy in 1780 compelled him to resign. His assistant was Thomas Haweis, who was the executor of Lady Huntingdon’s will.

1751: St Luke’s Hospital for the Insane was established partly because the waiting lists for Bedlam were so long, partly because Bedlam’s constitution did not did not allow subscribers to share in its government. Public viewing at Bedlam finally stopped in 1770 at considerable financial loss to the foundation. The most successful ‘mad doctor’ at St Luke’s was the highly respected William Battie.
1763: Newcastle asylum
1776: Manchester
1777: York
In 1796 the Quaker William Tuke founded The Retreat in York, a model of human care of the mentally ill.

Provincial case study: The Bristol Infirmary
The first voluntary general hospital in the provinces was the Winchester County Hospital admitted its first patient in 1736. This was followed by the Bristol Infirmary. In 1736, 78 people signed a memorandum promising subscriptions of from two to six guineas annually. The subscribers alone were to have the power to recommend one inpatient and two outpatients at a time for admission to the hospital. An initial £1,500 was provided by John Elbridge, the Controller of Customs. The Imfirmary’s motto was ‘Charity Universal’. The first patients, 17 men and 17 women, were admitted in December 1737. The opening of the Infirmary was celebrated by a church service at St James attended by the Mayor and Corporation, the medical staff and the trustees (the subscribers).

In 1788 plans for the enlargement of the Infirmary began.

28 June 1788: Felix Farley’s Bristol Journal:
‘The foundation Stone of the Centre Building of our new Infirmary was laid on Tuesday last when William Turner, Esq of Belmont, Somerset [now Tyntesfield], nobly presented one thousand pounds to the Treasurer towards completing the benevolent design. - May the opulent of our city and neighbourhood speedily follow so humane and liberal an example! and thereby prevent the capital stock of this excellent charity from being diminished, which otherwise must be the case before the building can be completed ... the increased size of the Hospital will require a great increase of income to support it, and the annual subscriptions for that purpose being extremely precarious, its permanent fund should be as inviolate as possible. ...’
25 Oct: FFBJ: ‘Last week died in College Green, Miss Turner, sister of Wm Turner, Exq of Belmont, near Wraxal, Somerset, - who, we have good authority to say, has left a very handsome legacy to our Infirmary’.

Some other charities

The Magdalen
At the onset of the Seven Years War moral outrage over prostitution helped lead to the foundation of the Magdalen in 1758. A number of businessmen were involved, including the Baltic merchant John Thornton. At the same time the Female Orphan Asylum was founded. The Magdalen preacher William Dodd was later hanged for forgery. In 1765 Queen Charlotte bestowed her patronage.

The Marine Society
In 1756 the philanthropist Jonas Hanway, a member of the Russia Company, approached his fellow member, the Hull merchant John Thornton, with a proposal to encourage the unemployed of London to volunteer for the Royal Navy with an offer of a suit of clothes, the Admiralty bounty and a religious tract. The Marine Society was founded on 25 June 1756, its (revealing!) motto: ‘Charity and Policy United’). In 1786 it commissioned the first pre-sea training ship in the world for poor boys of good character.