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The Culture of Controversy

The Culture of Controversy: Religious Arguments in Scotland, 1660-1714

Volume: 28
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    The Culture of Controversy
    Book Description:

    The Culture of Controversy' investigates arguments about religion in Scotland from the Restoration to the death of Queen Anne and outlines a new model for thinking about collective disagreement in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century societies. Rejecting teleological concepts of the 'public sphere', the book instead analyses religious debates in terms of a distinctively early modern 'culture of controversy'. This culture was less rational and less urbanised than the public sphere. Traditional means of communication such as preaching and manuscript circulation were more important than newspapers and coffeehouses. As well as verbal forms of discourse, controversial culture was characterised by actions, rituals and gestures. People from all social ranks and all regions of Scotland were involved in religious arguments, but popular participation remained of questionable legitimacy. Through its detailed and innovative examination of the arguments raging between and within Scotland's main religious groups, the presbyterians and episcopalians, over such issues as Church government, state oaths and nonconformity, 'The Culture of Controversy' reveals hitherto unexamined debates about religious enthusiasm, worship and clerical hypocrisy. It also illustrates the changing nature of the fault line between the presbyterians and episcopalians and contextualises the emerging issues of religious toleration and articulate irreligion. Illuminating the development and character of Scottish Protestantism, 'The Culture of Controversy' proposes new ways of understanding religion and politics in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Scotland and will be particularly valuable to all those with an interest in early modern British history. Alasdair Raffe is Lecturer in History at Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-018-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Maps and Illustrations
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-ix)
  5. Abbreviations and Conventions
    (pp. x-xii)
  6. [Maps]
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  7. Introduction

    • 1 The Culture of Controversy
      (pp. 3-28)

      This book explores the religious arguments of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Scotland. I have two principal aims. The first is to investigate the ‘culture of controversy’. Using this phrase, I seek to capture the ways in which Scots expressed their disagreements and argued about their collective problems. Religion was debated intensively across the period from 1660 to 1714, and it is an ideal focus for an interpretation of Scotland’s controversial culture. But while I concentrate on religious discord, I hope to offer new perspectives on the processes and media of Scottish public life more generally. Whether they were discussing...

    • 2 Religious Groups and Cultures
      (pp. 29-62)

      This chapter introduces late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Scotland’s rival religious groups. It examines their principles, illustrating the disagreements that gave substance to the culture of controversy. By restoring bishops to the national Church for the first time since the 1630s, the ecclesiastical settlement of 1661–2 divided the great majority of the Scottish population into two groups: presbyterians and episcopalians. Members of these groups became rivals and opponents, engaged in lively and often bitter arguments. The re-establishment of presbyterianism in 1690, though a major turning point, did not end the contention between the groups. In terms of printed polemic...

  8. Part I: Controversial Discourse

    • 3 The Covenants and Conscientious Dissent
      (pp. 65-92)

      Arguments about the National Covenant (1638) and the Solemn League and Covenant (1643) played a central role in Scottish religious controversy after 1660. For presbyterians, these oaths were of lasting significance, statements of Scotland’s relationship with God and commitment to presbyterian principles. As they struggled to uphold the Covenants in the face of aggressive government opposition, presbyterian dissenters faced trials of Conscience and internal division. Their episcopalian opponents believed that the Covenants were no longer relevant; some alleged that they had been illegal oaths. Students of the Restoration period have found these debates hard to ignore, and yet in the...

    • 4 Persecution
      (pp. 93-120)

      This chapter analyses the contested theme of persecution in the religious debates of late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Scotland. Within years of the episcopalian settlement of 1661–2, presbyterians began to describe the crown’s efforts to enforce religious uniformity as ‘persecution’. Preachers, pamphleteers and lay worshippers complained that they were made to suffer as a result of their conscientious nonconformity. Responding to these allegations, episcopalians claimed that the punishments incurred by the dissenters were legitimate. Indeed, episcopalians argued that the presbyterians misused the vocabulary of persecution. This conflict of attitudes makes religious persecution a problematic concept for scholars of the...

    • 5 Fanatics and Enthusiasts
      (pp. 121-148)

      This chapter examines arguments over the pejorative religious labels ‘fanatic’ and ‘enthusiast’. A hostile epithet, ‘fanatic’ was used of a variety of people whose principles or backgrounds placed them outside the boundaries of political acceptability after the Restoration. The term predated Charles II’s return to the throne, but the meanings of ‘fanatic’ and its related adjectives and nouns evolved in line with the changing political and religious structures of the early 1660s. Within a few years of the restoration of episcopacy, supporters of the establishment were regularly identifying presbyterian dissenters as fanatics. Moreover, presbyterians were also described as ‘enthusiasts’. Because...

    • 6 Clerical Reputations
      (pp. 149-176)

      The controversy between presbyterians and episcopalians drew in arguments about styles of piety and public worship. As chapter 5 reveals, the critics of enthusiasm sometimes ridiculed the laity’s devotions, but more often their chief target was the presbyterian clergy’s conduct of worship. This chapter focuses on other aspects of the clerical character, especially the moral rectitude and sincerity that Scots expected of their ministers, and the consequences of individual ministers’ moral failings and indiscretions. Examining these themes, the chapter shows how presbyterians could answer their opponents’ attempts to caricature presbyterianism as enthusiasm. From stories of the scandals of particular episcopalian...

  9. Part II: Controversial Action

    • 7 Nonconformity
      (pp. 179-207)

      The breakdown of religious uniformity was an essential precondition of Scotland’s post-Restoration culture of controversy. In the four and a half decades after 1660, the country’s shared religious understanding fissured, and rival confessional cultures emerged. Crucial to this process was the refusal of individuals and groups of people to conform to the established Church. As chapters 2 and 3 explain, the presbyterians’ ecclesiology, and their adherence to the Covenants, led them to dissent from the episcopalian Church from 1662. Twenty-eight years later, the revolution settlement of the crown and Kirk was unacceptable to most episcopalians, and large numbers failed to...

    • 8 Crowd Violence
      (pp. 208-233)

      This chapter explains how collective violence allowed ordinary men and women to participate in religious debates. Beginning with cases of localised opposition to the Restoration Church settlement, I analyse violent attacks on ministers, and riots in rural and urban areas against episcopalian authority and Catholic worship. Presbyterian crowds, some of which were predominantly female, questioned the legitimacy of the episcopalian settlement. With some success, they attempted to prevent the introduction of episcopalian ministers into parishes made vacant by the deposition of presbyterians. The climax of this type of violence came in 1688–9, when highly organised crowds forcibly evicted episcopalian...

  10. Conclusion: Concepts and Consequences
    (pp. 234-237)

    The ‘culture of controversy’ is intended as a framework for thinking about collective disagreement in early modern societies. The concept draws attention to the circulation of information, the expression and communication of arguments, and the practices of participation. In this book, my emphasis has been on religious debates, but the arguments between presbyterians and episcopa lians reflect more general features of controversial culture. There are five especially important points. First, there was widespread involvement in religious arguments, at all social levels. But not all participants were treated equally. Popular participation in controversy shaped the substance of debates, but did little...

  11. Glossary
    (pp. 238-238)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-276)
  13. Index
    (pp. 277-290)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 291-294)