Parliamentary Reform of 1832 in England — Religious Conflict?

M. S. Stetckevich


The article is devoted to the analysis of the struggle for the first parliamentary reform in England (1830–1832) in order to get an answer on the question of the possibility of classifying this conflict as a religious one. The author proceeds from the previously formulated concept, according to which the most important feature, allowing to classify the conflict as religious, is the division of the subjects of the conflict on religious grounds, and not the presence, as many researchers believe, of religious motivation of the opposing sides. The article analyzes the position of the two main confessional groups of the early XIX century England on the issue of the parliamentary reform: Anglicans (members of the state Church of England) and radical Protestants — dissenters. The Church of England was closely connected with the English model of the «old order», based on the political dominance of the land-owning elite, the dissenters mostly belonged to the «middle class», which sought to reform the political system. Based on the analysis of the speeches of Anglican bishops in the Parliament, the results of the voting at the General elections, the preaching of the clergy, the Anglican and dissenter press, the author comes to the conclusion that most of dissenters supported the idea of reform, and the adherents of the established Church were deeply divided. Not only the supporters of the «old order» and the Tory party were Anglicans, but also the Whigs that put forward the idea of parliamentary reform. It was supported also by some of the Anglican clergy. Theological arguments for and against the reform were rare enough. This allows us to state the existence of religious aspects of the confrontation over the parliamentary reform, but not to qualify it as a full-fledged religious conflict between Anglicans and dissenters.


religious conflict; the Church of England; Anglicans; dissenters; parliamentary reform

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