Fears and Dangers

Geoffrey Cantor

in Religion and the Great Exhibition of 1851

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199596676
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191725685 | DOI:
Fears and Dangers

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This chapter examines the many contemporary publications expressing anxiety that the Exhibition would undermine the Protestant faith in Britain. For some the threat came from foreign atheists intent on importing revolution, while others feared that in the light of the recent ‘papal aggression’ the Exhibition would be utilized by Catholics to undermine Protestantism. Others turned to prophecy to make sense of the Exhibition, interpreting it as a sign of the forthcoming apocalypse presaged by such biblical episodes as the destruction of the ungodly at Belshazzar's Feast, which, like the Exhibition, was a celebration of luxury. Another favourite text concerned the confusion of tongues and dispersion at the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1–9), which seemed particularly apposite as the Exhibition attracted foreigners speaking many different languages.

Keywords: atheists; Babel; Belshazzar's Feast; confusion of tongues; fear of foreigners; Great Exhibition; papal aggression; prophecy; Protestantism

Chapter.  9134 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Christianity

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