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Methodism and the British Armed Forces from John Wesley to the Second World War

PICKERING, ANDREW,NELSON (2022) Methodism and the British Armed Forces from John Wesley to the Second World War. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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The relationship between British Methodism and Britain’s armed forces has been under-researched. Whereas the past two decades have seen an extensive reappraisal of the connections between religion and the military, most of this work has focused on the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions. However, the comparative neglect of Methodism is both noteworthy and paradoxical, especially given the importance of the soldier and sailor in the development of Methodism in the British Isles and worldwide. This thesis argues that the links between the movement and the British armed forces were significant throughout Methodism's first two hundred years. Despite some ambiguity in attitudes towards soldiers and sailors, Methodists maintained an active interest in the spiritual health and temporal welfare of the British soldiers, sailors and airmen. That commitment to the armed forces was constant throughout the movement’s history, underpinned by a political loyalism that was central to Methodism, particularly Wesleyan Methodism. The relationship is analysed by exploring the presence of Methodists in Britain’s forces, by studying the links that developed between the armed forces and the movement, and by investigating the development of chaplaincy and other kinds of ministerial and lay outreach. The struggle for recognition and representation in the army, navy and air force will be shown to mirror Methodist striving for political and societal acceptance. Opposition to engagement with the armed forces will be explored, and a prevailing narrative challenged: that Methodist attitudes towards peace and war, especially in the twentieth century, were predominately pacifist.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Methodism, John Wesley, Chaplaincy, Mission, Armed Forces
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:10 Jan 2022 09:57

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