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Bishops in parliament: the Lords Spiritual, c. 1903-1974

RODGER, THOMAS,MATTHEW (2017) Bishops in parliament: the Lords Spiritual, c. 1903-1974. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Twenty-six Anglican bishops and archbishops – the ‘Lords Spiritual’ – are members of the House of Lords by right of their position within the established Church of England. They retain a place of symbolic and practical significance in parliament despite the widespread ‘secularisation’ of British (especially English) society and the ‘institutional marginalisation’ of the Church from the state during the twentieth century.

How has the Church of England’s direct influence in parliament survived, and what purpose has it served? In answering these questions, new perspectives are given on the reciprocal influence of political and religious debates, the role of the House of Lords, the dynamics of ‘secularisation’, and the function of the religious establishment. Study of the Lords Spiritual acts as an ‘institutional’ corrective to the ‘social’ and ‘cultural’ approaches which, since the late 1950s, have come to
characterise studies of the relationship between church and state.

Between c. 1903 and 1974, the role of the Lords Spiritual changed significantly. While once they claimed a role in the balance of constitutional ‘estates’, they came to place themselves within the chamber’s balance of expertise. Though at times the bishops attained temporary political importance, their conduct responded to ecclesiastical influences – chiefly, the perception of the Church’s and Christianity’s declining place in national life. In their efforts to influence parliamentary debates, they were constrained by the need to relate to the prevailing political and parliamentary discourses. This entailed compromises which became
greater as the identities of Church and state diverged, and as social practices departed from traditional Christian standards.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Church and state, parliament, Lords Spiritual, bishop, bishops
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:30 Mar 2017 08:42

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