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Victorian Nonconformity

By David W. Bebbington

Victorian Nonconformity

Victorian Nonconformity

By David W. Bebbington

A succinct introduction to the growth of nonconformism in Victorian Britain, revealing its impact on the development of 19th-century British culture.

Trade Information: LPOD
Available as: Paperback, PDF

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Print Paperback

ISBN: 9780718892692

Specifications: 229x153mm (9x6in), 76pp

Published: November 2011


PDF eBook

ISBN: 9780718843069

Specifications: 72pp

Published: August 2015

The Nonconformists of England and Wales, the Protestants outside the Church of England, were particularly numerous in the Victorian years. From being a small minority in the eighteenth century, they had increased to represent nearly half the worshipping nation by the middle years of the nineteenth century. These Methodists, Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers, Unitarians and others helped shape society and made their mark in politics.

This book explains the main characteristics of each denomination and examines the circumstances that enabled them to grow. It evaluates the main academic hypothesis about their role and points to signs of their subsequent decline in the twentieth century. Victorian Nonconformity is a succinct account of an important dimension of the Christian past in Britain.


1. Identity and Division
2. Diversity and Co-operation
3. Development and Expansion
4. The Helmstadter Thesis
5. Challenge and Decline
6. Conclusion

Further Reading

David W. Bebbington (PhD, University of Cambridge) is Professor of History at the University of Stirling in Scotland and a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. His books include Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (1989), The Mind of Gladstone: Religion, Homer and Politics (2004), and The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon and Moody (2005).

Combining critical analysis with engaging vignettes of individuals, this is an attractive, lucid and authoritative introduction to Victorian Nonconformity. Henry D. Rack, Honorary Fellow and former Bishop Fraser Senior Lecturer in Ecclesiastical History, University of Manchester
This booklet is carefully detailed, unusually informative, and skilfully outlined. Its success in explaining who Nonconformists were, how they differed from the Church of England (and among themselves), and why their fortunes rose and fell makes this an ideal beginning point for further study, both historical and theological. Mark A. Noll, McAnaney Professor of History, University of Notre Dame
No one can understand the Victorians, who does not appreciate the impact of a dynamic Christian counter-culture in their midst – Protestant Dissent. David Bebbington is the greatest authority on Victorian Nonconformity working today and this book is the best introduction to this subject that has ever been written. There is no better place to start learning about the Free Churches in nineteenth-century Britain than with this learned, lucid, and accessible volume. Timothy Larsen, McManis Professor of Christian Thought, Wheaton College
This book, a revised version of one published in 1992, is an over-all picture of Victorian Nonconformity. It will enlighten those who know nothing about it, and delight those who thought they did. ... Yet Nonconformity has a bad press, affected by inaccurate stereotypes portrayed by Matthew Arnold and Charles Dickens. No one is better equipped to present an accurate picture than Professor Bebbington, who is the greatest living authority on the subject. ... This account is full of fascinating details and heart-warming illustrations. Joy Horn, in Evangelicals Now, May 2012
As David Bebbington shows in this excellent introduction, thoroughly revised and updated from a text originally published in 1992, Protestant Nonconformity was numerically thriving and culturally significant in Victorian England. ... This judicious and persuasive work, amply illustrated from contemporary sources and modern scholarship, is highly recommended. Martin Wellings, in Theology, September/October 2012
David Bebbington has succeeded admirably in presenting a concise, throught-provoking, almost comprehensive, balanced, and clear over-view of Victorian Nonconformity, from the 1830s to the first decade of the twentieth century. Denis Paz, in Reviews in Religion and Theology, Vol 20, Issue 1
The continuing value and appeal of Victorian Nonconformity will particularly be to undergraduates and taught postgraduates, Bebbington covering a huge amount of ground in limited space and combinig pithy and judicious assessments with telling illustrations, revealing how 'Victorian Nonconformity formed a vibrant Christian counter-culture', thereby tempering the movement's historically negative image. Clive D. Field, in Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society, Vol 59, Part 1

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