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Counting Religion in England and Wales: The Long Eighteenth Century, c. 1680–c. 1840

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 September 2012

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The statistical analysis of religion in England and Wales usually commences with the mid-nineteenth century. This article synthesises relevant primary and secondary sources to produce initial quantitative estimates of the religious composition of the population in 1680, 1720, 1760, 1800 and 1840. The Church of England is shown to have lost almost one-fifth of its affiliation market share during this period, with an ever increasing number of nominal Anglicans also ceasing to practise. Nonconformity more than quadrupled, mainly from 1760 and especially after 1800. Roman Catholicism kept pace with demographic growth, but, even reinforced by Irish immigration, remained a limited force in 1840. Judaism and overt irreligion were both negligible.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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164 HLRO, Main Papers, 5 Mar. 1781.

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167 Lesourd, ‘Catholiques’, Information Historique, 37; unpubl. DLitt diss. ii. 327; and Sociologie, 46, 97–102, 159.

168 Currie, Gilbert and Horsley, Churches and churchgoers, 23, 25; cf. Ward, Bernard, The eve of Catholic emancipation, London 1911–12, i. 18, 186Google Scholar; Carson, ‘Multiplication’, 21–3.

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170 Hulbert, Religions, 462; Brady, Annals, 192, 227. 276, 312; Currie, Gilbert and Horsley, Churches and churchgoers, 25.

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172 HCP, 1852–3, lxxxix, p. clxxxii; Watts, Dissenters, ii. 28.

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188 Groth Lyon, Eileen, Politicians in the pulpit, Aldershot 1999Google Scholar.

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190 For example, JSSL ii (1839–40), 374; iii (1840–1), 19; vi (1843), 21; xi (1848), 215.

191 Gentleman's Magazine xvii (1747), 326.

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197 Gilbert, Religion, 11–12, 28; Currie, Gilbert and Horsley, Churches and churchgoers, 22–3, 25–6, 85. Also to be found here, and of limited worth, are back-projections to 1800 of national totals for Anglican communicants.

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202 HCP, 1818, xviii, p. 215.

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205 Dallas, Alexander, Pastoral superintendence, London 1841, 141Google Scholar. In a slum district of Liverpool, however, more than two-thirds of nominal Anglicans neglected worship: Hume, Missions, 29.

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207 For example, Religion in Hertfordshire, 1847 to 1851, ed. Judith Burg (Hertfordshire Record Publications xi, 1995), p. xxix; Yorkshire returns of the 1851 census of religious worship, ed. John Wolffe (Borthwick Texts and Calendars xxv, 2000), p. v; Church and chapel in … Shropshire, p. xxiii.

208 Gilbert, Memoir, 351; Spinks, Allen and Parkes, Religion in Britain, 15–16.

209 This is suggested by Clark, Jonathan, English society, 1688–1832, Cambridge 1985Google Scholar, and English society, 1660–1832, Cambridge 2000Google Scholar.

210 Brown, Callum, The death of Christian Britain, 2nd edn, London 2009Google Scholar.