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Dissenting Histories

Religious Division and the Politics of Memory in Eighteenth-Century England

John Seed

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The first major study of the historical writings of religious dissenters in England between the 1690s and the 1790s, this book redefines the way we understand religious and political identities in the eighteenth century.

Dissenting Histories provides a synoptic overview of the development of religious dissent in England between the Restoration and the early nineteenth century, using Dissenters' writings to open up new and different perspectives on how the past was perceived in this period. These writings are located within the wider political culture and the author explores how the long shadow of 'the Great Rebellion' of the 1640s stretched across the division between Church and Dissent.

The author is not simply concerned with history as a representation of the past, but history also as part of the bitterly divided collective memory of the present. Focusing on the relationship between the history that historians wrote, and the history that men and women experienced, John Seed provides the reader with new perspectives on eighteenth-century England.


Introduction: Remembering the Present
1. The Debt of Memory: Edmund Calamy & Restoration England
2. Protestant Liberty: Daniel Neal's History of the Puritans
3. Enthusiasts, puritans & politics: David Hume's History of England
4. Enlightenment, republicanism and Dissent: William Harris's histories
5. Dissenting histories in the 1770s and 1780s
6. 'The fiction of ancestry': Burke, the Dissenters and history

About the Author

John Seed teaches History at Roehampton University London. Publications include: The Culture of Capital. Art, power and the nineteenth-century middle class, co-edited with Janet Wolff (Manchester University Press 1988); Cultural Revolution. The Challenge of the Arts in the 1960s, co-edited with B.Moore-Gilbert (Routledge 1992); '"A set of Men Powerful Enough in Many Things": Rational Dissent and Political Opposition in England 1770-1790', in Knud Haakonssen, ed., Enlightenment and Religion. Rational Dissent in eighteenth-century Britain, (Cambridge University Press 1996); 'Political Economy' in Z. Leader & I. Haywood, eds (1998) Romantic Period Writings, 1798-1832, (Routledge 1998); 'Irrelevant Objects: Basil Bunting's Poetry of the 1930s' in R.Bau du Plessis and P.Quartermain, eds, The Objectivist Nexus. Essays in Cultural Poetics, (University of Alabama Press 1999).


A perceptive and welcome guide to the historical psychology of Dissent and the divided society it helped maintain.
- Stephen Copson, Baptist Quarterly