The Eighteenth-Century Context

J. C. D. Clark

in The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199696116
Published online January 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

The Eighteenth-Century Context


This article begins with a brief discussion of changes in the received model of eighteenth-century Methodism. It then discusses the changing accounts of Methodism, its founders and boundaries, its reception, and whether its political impact averted revolution in the 1790s. John Wesley tried to run Methodism as a proprietorial ‘religious society’, not an independent denomination, but its very growth gave it a developing life of its own. After his death in 1791, the nature of the movement was found to be, in important ways, undefined by its most famous founder; the early nineteenth century was to see Methodism fall into schism again and again, gravely weakening its effectiveness. Methodists disagreed on what ‘Methodism’ meant, yet much of the historiography still depends implicitly on a normative view of the movement's outcomes, called into question by recent scholarship.

Keywords: Methodism; revolution; historigraphy; religious society; John Wesley

Article.  12726 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Christianity

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