The ecclesiastical response in Britain to World War I: A study of the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, and the Roman Catholic Church

Wayne M Riggs, Marquette University

Abstract

Religion has been a largely overlooked aspect of British history during the First World War. While there are studies of chaplains during the conflict, and a handful of works examining particular denominations, no work has yet presented a comprehensive overview of religion in the country during the conflict. This dissertation addresses this deficiency in historiography by examining the responses to the war by the Church of England, Church of Scotland, and Roman Catholic Church in Britain. In offering a comparative analysis of Britain's three largest churches, the dissertation addresses both national and local leaders--from prominent bishops and administrators to village priests and ministers. This study argues that there was remarkable uniformity in the way individual institutions described the conflict, addressed wartime circumstances, and encouraged public morality. It also asserts that the clergy and laity of these groups expressed growing concern about the changing (and diminishing) place of religion in British national life and identity. The failure of the established churches to maintain moral authority, coupled with the public acceptance of Catholicism as a British religious institution, contributed to a bifurcation between religious and national identity that became a hallmark of the twentieth century. In making these arguments, the study discusses the individual experience of each institution, and also examines topics that were relevant to all three churches. The dissertation relies heavily on an extensive array of archival sources that include private correspondence, sermons, memoirs, books, and articles written by clergy and laymen involved with the events of the time. In addition, it draws on a variety of Anglican, Catholic, and Church of Scotland periodicals (including parish magazines), which reflect the opinions and rhetoric directed at parishioners on a regular basis.

Recommended Citation

Wayne M Riggs, "The ecclesiastical response in Britain to World War I: A study of the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, and the Roman Catholic Church" (January 1, 2008). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. Paper AAI3357935.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI3357935

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