The Great Church Crisis and the End of English Erastianism, 1898-1906: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Great Church Crisis and the End of English Erastianism, 1898-1906

1st Edition

By Bethany Kilcrease


222 pages

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This book traces the history of the "Church Crisis", a conflict between the Protestant and Anglo-Catholic (Ritualist) parties within the Church of England between 1898 and 1906. During this period, increasing numbers of Britons embraced Anglo-Catholicism and even converted to Roman Catholicism. Consequent fears that Catholicism was undermining the "Protestant" heritage of the established church led to a moral panic.

The Crisis led to a temporary revival of Erastianism as protestant groups sought to stamp out Catholicism within the established church through legislation whilst Anglo-Catholics, who valued ecclesiastical autonomy, opposed any such attempts. The eventual victory of forces in favor of greater ecclesiastical autonomy ended parliamentary attempts to control church practice, sounding the death knell of Erastianism. Despite increased acknowledgment that religious concerns remained deep-seated around the turn of the century, historians have failed to recognize that this period witnessed a high point in Protestant-Catholic antagonism and a shift in the relationship between the established church and Parliament. Parliament’s increasing unwillingness to address ecclesiastical concerns in this period was not an example advancing political secularity. Rather, Parliament’s increased reluctance to engage with the Church of England illustrates the triumph of an anti-Erastian conception of church-state relations.


"There are good chapters on the political and religious motivations of William Harcourt, the leader of the Liberal opposition in Parliament and a determined anti-Ritualist, and of Arthur Balfour, the Conservative leader and Prime Minister whose High Church sympathies led him to resist the efforts of Harcourt and others to introduce legislation for the suppression of Ritualism." - Jeremy Morris, Trinity Hall, University of Cambridge

Table of Contents

Terminological Preface


List of Abbreviations

1 Introduction

2 The Church Crisis and Erastianism

3 Never Trust a Clergyman in Black: British Anti-Catholicism during the Great Church Crisis

4 William Harcourt’s Protestant Erastianism: Church and State, 1898–1900

5 Protestant Paranoia and Catholic Conspiracies: Protestant and Catholic Perspectives on the Second Anglo-Boer War, 1899–1902

6 Arthur Balfour and coming the Triumph of Ecclesiastical Independence, 1898–1902

7 A New Front in the Church Crisis: The 1902 Education Act

8 The Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline, another Education Bill, and the Implosion of Erastianism

9 Conclusion




About the Author

Bethany Kilcrease is an Associate Professor of History at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She has written and spoken on late-Victorian Anglicanism and parliamentary politics, Protestant responses to the Boer war, anti-Catholicism in popular literature, and the role of Victorian Catholic apologists in popularizing science.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Modern British History

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General
HISTORY / Modern / General