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Historians and the Church of EnglandReligion and Historical Scholarship, 1870–1920$
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James Kirby

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198768159

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198768159.001.0001

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The Constitution

The Constitution

(p.105) 5 The Constitution
Historians and the Church of England

James Kirby

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the relationship between Anglican historiography and English constitutionalism—the dominant mode of historical thought in the Victorian and Edwardian period. It begins by defining English constitutionalism, and by rejecting its widespread conflation with Herbert Butterfield’s ‘Whig interpretation of history’. It proceeds to show how Anglican historians intertwined their own beliefs with standard constitutionalist views of the historical development of English liberty. In medieval history, this entailed claiming the milestones of constitutional progress, such as Magna Carta or the origins of parliament, for the church, for instance by showing the contribution of the clergy to such developments. The other great constitutionalist epoch—the seventeenth century—was more divisive, since historians’ religious and political sentiments widely diverged. Contrary to some suggestions, the Civil War remained an apple of discord, though Anglican constitutionalists could overcome these differences by focusing on the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Keywords:   constitutionalism, Whig history, national identity, medievalism, feudalism, Cromwell, Laud, William Stubbs, J. R. Green, E. A. Freeman

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