Blasphemy in Modern Britain
1789 to the Present
Originally published in 1999, this book deals with the cultural and legal debates which have counterposed the right to free speech and the need to protect Christian sensibilities in Britain from the time of the French Revolution to the present day. Central to the book is a close study of the content and public reception of the anti-Christian literature of the 19th century associated with the names G.W.Foote and J.W. Gott, the Freethinker and The Truthseeker. David Nash here also examines a variety of critical-theoretical approaches to blasphemy and blasphemous writing, including postmodernism and the work of Foucault and Said. The book concludes with a detailed examination of 20th-century blasphemy cases, up to and including the Gay News case, The Last Temptation of Christ and Visions of Ecstasy.
Table of Contents
Introduction; Part One: The law of blasphemy in Britain: origins and development; Blasphemy and theory: Post-modern turns, Foucauldian analysis, Edward Said and Orientalism, Secularisation theory; Thomas Paine, William Hone and the Carlile agitations: the creation of a modern blasphemous rhetoric; Part Two: G.W.Foote and the Freethinker prosecution: blasphemy as cultural terrorism; Boulter, Stewart, Pack and Gott: blasphemy, conflict and public order; Attempts at repeal and extension: 1913-38; ’Perish Judah’ and save the Empire: Christianity ’from below’, the Godless Congress and the attempted extension of the blasphemy laws in 1938; Silencing the love that dares to speak its name: blasphemy and the Gay News case; Conclusion; Index.
'a comprehensive and detailed study of blasphemy in Britain during the last two centuries..full of insights..The history of blasphemy law demonstrates the history of social change, perhaps particularly of secularisation and freedom of debate. David Nash has provided a fine account of this history.' New Humanist 'Blasphemy in Modern Britain is an important book. It provides an account, an analysis and an interpretation of the modern history of an issue that...remains a matter of intense debate and controversy in our own day...provides an essential historical context for contemporary discussion of the issue of blasphemy....' Reviews in History '... provides a valuable perspective on the effect of increasing religious diversity on British life.' Journal of Contemporary History 'Blasphemy in Modern Britain is a fascinating and important study and necessary reading for anyone interested in the blasphemy laws in particular and the history of Freethought in Britain in general.' Bulletin of the Thomas Paine Society '...provides a scholarly and readable account of one of the great anomalies of modern British society.' English Historical Review '(Nash) writes in a clear and thoughtful manner, and many of his conclusions are persuasive.' The Historian