The Death of Christian Britain: Understanding Secularisation, 1800–2000

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Routledge, Jan 26, 2009 - History - 320 pages
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The Death of Christian Britain examines how the nation’s dominant religious culture has been destroyed. Callum Brown challenges the generally held view that secularization was a long and gradual process dating from the industrial revolution. Instead, he argues that it has been a catastrophic and abrupt cultural revolution starting in the 1960s. Using the latest techniques of gender analysis, and by listening to people's voices rather than purely counting heads, the book offers new formulations of religion and secularization.

In this expanded second edition, Brown responds to commentary on his ideas, reviews the latest research, and provides new evidence to back his claims.


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User Review  - matthewgray - LibraryThing

very interesting book and social history. though as in all social history the theory and reasoning is never absolute; what is being said in this book does ring true as it is thought about and the reasons behind secularisation in Britain. Read full review

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I do like this book, and it`s a book that surely must be read.
The precipitous decline in the notion of a Christian Britain surely deserves a serious study, and Dr Brown does a magnificent job in
collating the trends over the past two centuries.
The assumptions of the church lasted well into the twentieth century...they continued to build even in places where church membership was declining (or on notice of so doing).
Hindsight is an exact science of course, so it is not for us to consider the church as wilfully deluded. But the industrialisation of our big cities, the seismic consequences of Christian carnage in evidence throughout World War well as the cynicism that would have made the inevitable descent into World War 2 a major pull in anti-religious feeling...would have indicated that the Church of England was at risk of becoming irrelevant as a national fixture. Same goes for the Catholics of course, but they had a world wide religious structure to worry about( as well as celebrate in anywhere but Western Europe and the Anglosphere).
I`m not sure if Brown saw the Indian summer of Billy Grahams rallies in 1954 and 1955 as being the Christians last hurrah...but certainly that shot in the arm of the church has long been fading for the dying generation who were enthused by the gospel, even when communicated by an American who ran considerable risks in a grey and grumpy nation, fresh out of the terrors of World War 2.
Brown is right to cite the removal of even Christian references in the common culture-household names like CS Lewis, GK Chesterton, Waugh, TS Eliot and William Barclay would have had the intellectual and moral heft to deny the angry atheist any claim to feeble-minded comfort on the part of the Christian...these were serious men, about to die in the wake of silly and trivial times.
Maybe the 1970s were the last era where a serious religious case could have been put to the culture as being required...efforts by the likes of Schaeffer and his L`Abri Community in Hampshire, communal living among the Jesus people and latter establishment of evangelical groups like New Frontiers were worthy attempts to keep Christianity as a living Gospel for those who desired more than a Godspell or Superstar to worship, It was however doomed to failure, for reasons that Brown may not be able to explain...but has plenty worthwhile to say nonetheless.
Maybe it was the Life of Brian, and the likes of the preposterous Mervyn Stockwood and Robert Runcie that finished the faith here in the UK. People like Muggeridge and Whitehouse became the killjoys and the kind that only a Cliff Richard could welcome. For they missed a serious trick, regarding prophetic signs of the times that were occuring. As if the Church went AWOL in the culture wars that raged, preferring a personal piety and unwillingness to engage with students unless they did Theology nearby with their agonising compatriots. This turned out to be disastrous in that all culture, all "good rebellions" and all student activism became of the Left and atheist by default-or possibly a fatuous religion based on left cultural tropes and a Derek Batey kind of tolerance..which removed any backbone, any brain from being a Christian in Britain as the New Millienium beckoned.
Need I mention the Dome by way of the hollowing out of the British Christian presence in the country?
And now-years since this book was written-we know now that it is FAR worse now than it was then too. As the Church runs out of hospital chapels, cavils over the Green Pagan cults of environmental substitutions, is reduced to gettting a passing pastor from an evangelical church to slip a few Gideon Bibles into schools they can no longer speak safely in....we can now say that Dr Brown has done us a great service with this ambitious and all-embracing book.
It may well be the last service we will see to the church if it continues to confuse Steve Chalk with Martin Luther King, Tim Farron with Solzhenitsyn-but sadly on Browns projections I fear that this is what is going to happen


Note on oral history
The problem with religious decline
The salvation economy
women in discourse and narrative 18001950
men in discourse and narrative 18001950

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About the author (2009)

Callum Brown is Professor of Religious and Cultural History at the University of Dundee. His publications include Religion and Society in Twentieth-Century Britain (2006) and Postmodernism for Historians (2005).

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