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Victorian Literature Unitarianism
by
Ruth Watts

Introduction

Very much a minority religion and often despised by other Christian groups, Unitarianism nevertheless was a potent force in the religious, educational, cultural, social, economic, and political life of those places in which it flourished, particularly Britain and the United States. In Britain it emerged from 18th century Rational Dissent, but although British thinkers had influence in the United States, Unitarianism there evolved from its own responses to religious questioning and Biblical criticism, as it did elsewhere. As an open religion, insistent on the right of all to free enquiry in religion, Unitarianism had no set creeds and throughout the 19th century was subject to varying internal divisions. Yet Unitarians were characterized by their denial of the Trinity and of original sin, their affirmation of applying reason to the scriptures as to everything else, and their quest for moral order and perfection. A deep belief in rational education as a prerequisite for all if they were to obtain true morality and religion underpinned their huge commitment to educational ventures and social reform, including greater equality for women than was the norm. It helped them to be in the vanguard of new ideas in Biblical criticism, philosophy, science, and literature. At the same time, since their leaders tended mostly to come from the new urban commercial and industrial elites, their social philosophy was pervaded or tinged with social and economic prejudices that indicated their class. The contribution of Unitarians to theology, education, culture, social reform, economic thinking, and local and national politics, particularly in Britain and the United States, makes a study of them essential for understanding 19th century history. Understanding them in all these contexts means there is a wide range of literature to choose from. The focus throughout this article will be chiefly on Britain and the United States, although there are more references to the former. Other countries are included in the General Overviews. Many citations are relevant under several headings, so the commentary will direct readers to other sections when necessary. Many standard works by or on Unitarians are now available on the web, and this is signposted on the citation. This is an ongoing process, so scholars would be advised to check regularly to see if such works are online.

General Overviews

Some of the standard works are quite old but are still useful and have been supplemented by a growing wealth of material and fresh interpretation in recent years. Both Wilbur and Watts broke new ground in historical studies on Unitarianism in their time. Both synthesized and critiqued previous work and integrated their own substantial researches into this. As such, they are indispensable for scholarly investigations of Unitarianism, and in each case both of their volumes have been included. The most readable and concise overview is Smith 2006, which provides extensive leads to further work. Smith 2006, Wilbur 1946, and Wilbur 1952 cover Unitarianism in Europe, Britain, and America and indicate the interrelationships among them. Wigmore-Beddoes 1971 is useful for seeing the affinities of liberal approaches to religion. Dr Williams’s Centre for Dissenting Studies documents Dissenting Academies up until the late 19th century, and although only a few of these were run by Unitarians, the wealth of information on them is an important starting point for studying developments in the religious, intellectual, social, and cultural history of the institutions, their tutors, and students, people who provided much of the backbone of Unitarianism.

  • Dr Williams’s Centre for Dissenting Studies.

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    Has brilliant web facilities, based on Dr. Williams’s Library’s unique collections. Dissenting Academies Online draws on long-neglected records to give, through its Database and Encyclopedia and the Virtual Library System, an indispensable guide to over two hundred nonconformist academies, their history, tutors, and students.

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    • Smith, Leonard. The Unitarians: A Short History. Providence, RI: Blackstone, 2006.

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      Clear, succinct history of the origins of and developments in Unitarianism in Europe, Britain, and America; refers to the latest interpretations but also based on older, established histories, such as Earl Morse Wilbur’s. Shows that the growth of Unitarianism in Asia and Africa has risen from indigenous roots. Excellent comprehensive bibliographical essay appended.

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    • Watts, Michael. The Dissenters. Vol. 1, From the Reformation to the French Revolution. Oxford: Clarendon, 1978.

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      Succeeds in its aim to synthesize and examine critically the work of scholars of Dissent in the previous sixty years. Integrates the author’s own research into this. Analyzes formative period from the 16th to the 18th century, including emergence of Rational Dissent. Chronological framework with different aspects dealt with in depth in turn.

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    • Watts, Michael. The Dissenters. Vol. 2, The Expansion of Evangelical Nonconformity. Oxford: Clarendon, 1995.

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      Second volume published much later because there was so much material for the years 1791–1859. Focuses on what was representative, supplemented by much contextual evidence through appendices, maps, and tables. Numerous references to Unitarians who are thus seen in their economical, geographical, social, and religious context.

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    • Wigmore-Beddoes, Dennis G. Yesterday’s Radicals: A Study of the Affinity Between Unitarianism and Broad Church Anglicanism in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge, UK, and London: James Clarke, 1971.

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      Traces affinities between the liberal wing of 19th century Unitarianism and Broad Churchmen with critical and liberal attitudes. Examines various aspects of this, concluding that such affinities were grounded in a rationalistic approach (although from separate developments) and moral and religious sensitivity. Useful bibliography of significant English Unitarian theological works.

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    • Wilbur, Earl Morse. A History of Unitarianism: Socinianism and Its Antecedents. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1946.

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      Comprehensive analysis of rise of Unitarianism from the 16th and 17th centuries. Based on extensive researches in Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere in Europe, using knowledge of nine languages to access long-neglected sources subsequently either lost in World War II or preserved at the author’s college, Starr King School in Berkeley, California.

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    • Wilbur, Earl Morse. A History of Unitarianism in Transylvania, England, and America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952.

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      This wide-ranging, very detailed account is based on an extensive bibliography, cross-referenced with Wilbur 1946 and, like the former volume, has a Pronouncing Table of Names. Together they form an authoritative history that might be superseded in interpretation and new scholarship but not in range or depth of scholarship.

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    Bibliographies and Repositories

    Many of the works cited, especially in the General Overviews, have excellent bibliographies. Three major repositories of books, pamphlets, and documents in England on Unitarianism (and Protestant Dissent) are Dr Williams’s Library, London; Harris Manchester College, Oxford (HMCO); and the John Rylands University Library in Manchester. Porter 2009 gives a bibliographical guide to HMCO as Field and Shiel 2004 does for John Rylands (superseding the earlier work of Herbert McLachlan, The Story of a Nonconformist Library). University, city, and town libraries and those of historical or philosophical societies in places where Unitarianism was strong, for example Birmingham, Bristol, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Norwich, and Nottingham, have many of the leading 19th-century texts (books, pamphlets, sermons) by Unitarians and are rich in local source material and publications. The Birmingham Archives and Heritage Online Catalogue is given as an example here and indicates how the use of the Internet can give a quick guide to what deposits are available in many instances. The Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham similarly has rich Unitarian materials. Many Unitarian organizations, chapels, and institutions have websites, some of which, such as the Unitarian Historical Society and the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, are rich in bibliographical material and links to other related and useful sites.

    American Bibliographies and Repositories

    Both the American Unitarian Association and the American Unitarian Conference have excellent guides to Unitarian materials and history online.

    Biography

    In an individualistic religion, individuals play a very important role, so a representative range of autobiographical and biographical works has been chosen. Biography, by illustrating the lived experience of individuals within their religious, social, political, and economic contexts, shows how Unitarians were influenced both by their rational, humanitarian, and liberal religion and education and often by the assumptions on political economy entrenched in the liberal urban middle classes to which many of them belonged. It aids our understanding of nuances of belief and attitude and how people often had overlapping and sometimes conflicting identities. Although middle class biography was a relatively new genre in the 19th century and mostly reserved for politicians and military men, Unitarians were prolific in this area. Women were included in this, allowing in recent years a very valuable vein of hitherto largely untapped material to be unearthed and analyzed. The Internet is a rich source of biographical and pictorial material. Local libraries are often good sources for information on individuals who achieved local fame. Conversely, reading biographies can give much insight into the Unitarian networks in places like London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, and others, and can show how both individuals and localities fitted into wider Unitarian networks in Britain and internationally. For further biographical works see Bibliographies and Repositories, Reference Works, British Unitarian History, American Unitarian History, Religion and Philosophy, Journals, Historical Journals, Social and Educational Ideas in Literature, and bibliographies in the books and other publications cited. Unitarianism has a wealth of biographical history, so the following section is merely a selection of some who either made an outstanding contribution to Unitarianism itself or whose lives were rich in Unitarian connections. Carpenter 1905 is written on a significant Unitarian who had influenced the author and others personally. Cobbe 1904 is an autobiographical work illustrating the author’s life at the heart of Unitarian networks, while Rathbone 1908 is a biography doing the same for the author’s father and other relatives. Uglow 1993 has introduced many contemporary readers to the vibrant world of Unitarians in Manchester through the biography of Elizabeth Gaskell, as has Chapple and Pollard 1997, a collection of her letters. Bruce 1903 and Sadler 1869 have been included here on their own account and because they illuminate Unitarian networks and cultural and educational life, particularly in London.

    • Bruce, Mary L. Anna Swanwick: A Memoir and Recollections, 1813–1899. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1903.

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      Absorbing life of eminent Victorian translator of German and ancient Greek, critic, and author, strongly immersed in advancing both the higher education of women and Bedford College and in further education for girls and youths, especially at Little Portland Street Chapel where she worshipped. Close to James Martineau and Frances Newman.

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    • Carpenter, Joseph Estlin. James Martineau, Theologian and Teacher: A Study of His Life and Thought. London: Philip Green, 1905.

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      Commissioned by the British and Foreign Association and drawing from the two volume biography by Drummond and Upton (The Life and Letters of James Martineau, London: James Nisbet and Co., 1902, based largely on Martineau letters) and important further material, this detailed biography analyzes Martineau’s relationship with the theological, philosophical, and scientific developments of his day and his influence on English Unitarianism.

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    • Chapple, J. A. V., and Arthur Pollard, eds. The Letters of Mrs Gaskell. Manchester, UK: Mandolin, 1997.

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      First published in 1966. Rich study of Unitarian life in Manchester and beyond through lively letters to Unitarians and others at home and abroad, written by a prime Victorian novelist involved in local and national cultural, social, and educational concerns and married to a leading Unitarian minister. Further Letters (John Chapple & Alan Shelston, eds. Further Letters of Mrs Gaskell. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2003) published subsequently.

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    • Cobbe, Frances Power. Life of Francis Power Cobbe as Told by Herself. London: S. Sonnenschein, 1904.

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      Absorbing autobiography especially on Unitarian culture from the 1850s. Influenced by Francis Newman, Elizabeth Gaskell, Theodore Parker, and Immanuel Kant, Cobbe became a theist. Worshipped at James Martineau’s chapel. Friend of, and worked with, many Unitarian men and women. Influential writer and activist on social reform and women’s rights.

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    • Rathbone, Eleanor. William Rathbone: A Memoir. London: Macmillan, 1908.

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      Fascinating account of her father’s (and his family’s) involvement in Unitarianism and educational and social reform at all levels and Liberal politics throughout the 19th century. Details her father’s role in district nursing, education—particularly higher education in Liverpool and North Wales—and political life as MP for twenty-seven years.

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    • Sadler, Thomas, ed. Diary, Reminiscences, and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson. 3 vols. London: Macmillan, 1869.

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      Originally in thirty-seven volumes; lively account of life during the years 1775–1867 in Unitarian and other cultural networks, especially in London. Robinson was a German translator, journalist, barrister, and superb conversationalist. Played an important role in Dissenting Chapels Act, establishment of the Flaxman Gallery at University College, London, and of University Hall in Gordon Square.

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    • Uglow, Jenny. Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories. London: Faber and Faber, 1993.

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      Readable and perceptive biography. Places Gaskell within her Unitarian world in Manchester and elsewhere and depicts the nuances of Gaskell’s Unitarianism, the importance of her Unitarian networks, the influence of her religious beliefs on her life, social work, and writings, and the reactions of different Unitarians to her social messages.

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    Unitarian Families and Sources

    Some Unitarian biographies focus on many notable individuals within one family. James and Inkster, for example, do this in their book on the Aikin-Barbauld circle and its wide-ranging literary, intellectual, and educational achievements (James and Inkster 2011), while McLachlan 1935 records a family active in Unitarian networks, many of whose members became prominent ministers and/or educational and social reformers. Ruston 1993 and Ruston’s Index to the Obituaries of Unitarian Ministers, 1800–1849 are indispensable works for those wanting to know what sources to use for studies on Unitarian ministers and others. See Historical Journals, British Unitarian History, American Unitarian History, Education and Science, and Political Economy, Social Reform, and Politics for further relevant works.

    • James, Felicity, and Ian Inkster, eds. Religious Dissent and the Aikin-Barbauld Circle. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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      Excellent edited collection exploring the lives and works of members of the intriguing Aikin-Barbauld family and their networks rooted in Rational Dissent. Expert absorbing and fresh insights into individual members, their mutual support, and interdisciplinary projects. Shows their religious, educational, scientific, cultural, political, and social significance in this period.

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    • McLachlan, Herbert. Records of a Family 1800–1933: Pioneers in Education, Social Service and Liberal Religion. Publications of the University of Manchester 239. Manchester, UK: University of Manchester Press, 1935.

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      Shows the involvement in Unitarianism and the educational, social, and political developments of John Relly Beard and his descendents, including Charles Beard, Mary Shipman Beard, Mary Dendy, and Helen Bosanquet. Beard was a Unitarian minister, teacher, first principal of the Unitarian Home Missionary Board, and lecturer at Owens College, Manchester, among other achievements.

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    • Ruston, Alan. My Ancestors Were English Presbyterians/Unitarians: How Can I Find Out More About Them? London: Society of Genealogists, 1993.

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      A guide for those tracing ancestors who belonged to early Dissent, principally Presbyterians or Unitarians, but the book also mentions Independents and Baptists, recognizing fluidity of earlier denominational boundaries. Gives tools and sources (registers, records, chief repositories, journals and newspapers, bibliography) and a location list of records useful for any researcher on Unitarians.

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    • Ruston, Alan. Index to the Obituaries of Unitarian Ministers, 1800–1849.

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      Very useful guide to a principal source for biographical material on Unitarian ministers. Lists Ruston’s sources and where they can be found. Points out the large number of Unitarian ministers appearing in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB) and the Dictionary of Welsh Biography. Refers to his previous indices of obituaries on other periods.

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      Educational and Social Reform Unitarians

      Many Unitarians were deeply involved in educational, anti-slavery, and social reform. This brief selection of biographical works illustrates how certain individuals were influenced by Unitarianism in forging their ideals and how they used their Unitarian connections when negotiating contested reforms. Manton 1976 offers a thoughtful biography of Mary Carpenter, which is a basis for more recent research and articles on her. Solly 1893 (an autobiography), Solly 1898 (an edited volume of Henry Morley’s life in Manchester and London), and Tiffany 1891 (a biography of Dorothea Dix and her networks in Boston and England) all portray Unitarian reformers who were at the heart of intellectual, social, and cultural networks that included many Unitarians. Martineau 1877 is an autobiography of a woman whose exceedingly full life as an educational and social reformer grew out of her Unitarian upbringing and lifelong connections. See also Reference Works, British Unitarian History, American Unitarian History, Education and Science, Political Economy, Social Reform, and Politics, and Social and Educational Ideas in Literature for further relevant works.

      • Manton, Jo. Mary Carpenter and the Children of the Streets. London: Heinemann, 1976.

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        The only modern full biography of Carpenter. Uses many sources, including Joseph Estlin Carpenter’s biography of 1879 (The Life and Work of Mary Carpenter. London, Macmillan, 1879). Well-illustrated. A thoughtful analysis of a zealous and formidable yet humanitarian social reformer whose philosophy was formed by her Unitarian education and upbringing and whose reforms owed much to her Unitarian networks.

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      • Martineau, Harriet. Autobiography. 3 vols. London: Smith, Elder, 1877.

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        Readable and candid autobiography written mid-life. Details the author’s Unitarian upbringing and later atheism, her many travels, her life as a writer and campaigner on political economy, religion, and philosophy, and her work against slavery and for many social and educational reforms, including for women. Good modern version published by Virago in 1983 and introduced by Gaby Weiner.

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      • Solly, Henry. “These Eighty Years,” or, The Story of an Unfinished Life. 2 vols. London: Simpkin, Marshall, 1893.

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        The author was educated at schools run by Unitarians and at University College, London. Details his life spent in Unitarian circles. He became a banker, then a Unitarian minister. Worked as a chartist and was famed for the establishment of Working Men’s Social Clubs and Educational Institutes. Interesting for many Unitarian connections, including his family and wife, and for his social outlook and activities.

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      • Solly, Henry Shaen. The Life of Henry Morley, LL.D, Professor of the English Language and Literature at University College, London. London: Edward Arnold, 1898.

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        Fascinating account of life among Unitarians, especially in Manchester and London, by a convert to Unitarianism as well as progressive educationalist, feminist, journalist, and writer who became a professor of English literature at University College, London, a pioneering lecturer of University Extension classes to women, and principal of University Hall, 1882–1889.

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      • Tiffany, Francis. Life of Dorothea Lynde Dix. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1891.

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        Shows how an intellectual female educationalist and efficient reformer of asylums in the United States and Europe blossomed in the cultural milieu of 19th century Bostonian Unitarianism (though her views on womanhood remained “old-fashioned”). Interesting on Dix’s relationships with William Ellery Channing, with the Rathbone family in England, and with other Unitarians.

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      Reference Works

      The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004 includes many Unitarians and is a valuable way to gain accurate, informative, and concise biographical material together with useful references. Ruston 2001 and Webb 2001 discuss how their authors have updated and extended the entries on Unitarians for this. Spears 1906 has useful biographical material, although it is somewhat eager to claim too many people as Unitarians. The ongoing Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography is a comprehensive American biographical dictionary. Twinn 1973 and Ouren 1980 are very useful guides to Unitarian chapels, families, and ministers in Britain. The website for Unitarian Obituaries compiled from the Harris Manchester College catalogue is a useful starting place for such research.

      • Goldman, Lawrence, ed. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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        Includes many Unitarians such as Unitarian ministers, scholars, educationalists, scientists, writers, industrialists, politicians, and social reformers. For many of these, this is the best biographical material available. Originally published as Dictionary of National Biography (DNB) (London: Smith, Elder, 1885–1900; annually updated). Many contributions to the old DNB have been updated in light of modern scholarship.

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      • Ouren, Dallas L. Some Ministers and Collaterals: Some Presbyterian/Unitarian Chapels. Oxford: Manchester College, 1980

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        Two extensive, handwritten, easy-to-follow compilations of “family” trees continuing from one page to the next. The first is chiefly of Unitarian families with symbols denoting who were ministers or officials in Unitarian organizations or colleges or in the DNB and is indexed; the second is of Unitarian/General Baptist chapels.

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      • Ruston, Alan. Those Eighteenth-Century Divines: Writing for the New Dictionary of National Biography. Friends of Dr. Williams’s Library Lecture Series 55. London: Dr. Williams’s Trust, 2001.

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        Ruston revised or wrote forty-three biographical articles for ODNB. Discusses use of funeral sermons, wills, obituaries, and other sources to do this, including the huge biographical card index of Rev. Charles Surman. Many of these are found at Dr. Williams’s Library. Also evaluates Alexander Gordon’s work (778 entries in DNB).

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      • Spears, Robert. Memorable Unitarians: Being a Series of Brief Biographical Sketches. Rev. ed. London: British and Foreign Unitarian Association, 1906.

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        Revised version of Spears’s A Record of Unitarian Worthies (1896), by this time out of print. Proving to the orthodox the “noble and devout” spirit in “men” that Unitarian education produced, but women included, some listed together. Like its predecessor, some claims of Unitarianism doubtful, although some evidence is given.

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      • Nonconformist Congregations in Great Britain: A List of Histories and Other Material in Dr. Williams’s Library. Edited by Twinn, Kenneth. London: Dr. Williams’s Trust, 1973.

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        Compiled by the Library’s librarians. Lists entries according to counties as they were in 1963, plus Greater London. Each county has entries under “General” and “Localities” listed according to the alphabetical order of denominations. Useful, but needs updating as the names of some Unitarian congregations have changed, as have geographical boundaries.

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      • Unitarian Obituaries.

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        Index of 2,743 obituaries (at present) of Unitarians and others from 1798 onward that appeared in Unitarian Journals, translated to the web from a catalogue in Harris Manchester College, Oxford (HMCO). Access from the above address, not HMCO. Full texts of any of the obituaries are available on request.

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        • Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage Society. Dictionary of Unitarian and Universalist Biography.

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          Accessible public web resource under Unitarian-Universalist auspices with a continually expanding selection of biographies, many of them giving authoritative judgements on the subject’s religious identity and affiliation. Editorial process appears to be strong. Articles easily found under large number of headings. Much cross-referencing as well as a guide to sources used.

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          • Webb, Robert K. “Six Years with the New DNB.” Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society 22.3 (2001): 290–311.

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            As an associate editor of the new DNB with special responsibility for Unitarians of the 18th and 19th centuries, Webb details his own work and how he scrupulously investigated criticisms that Unitarians were overrepresented in the old DNB, particularly by the prolific Unitarian writer Alexander Gordon.

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          Journals

          Unitarians were in the vanguard of establishing and writing in journals. These are useful not only for illustrating open arguments about Unitarians’ ever developing and evolving religious beliefs and findings in theology, but also for much on dissenting politics, education, literature, and culture generally. Many included news on Unitarian chapels, marriages, new publications, correspondence, and obituaries. The four major ones selected appealed to different sections of Unitarians. The Christian Reformer is an example of a journal aimed at less wealthy and less well-educated Unitarians, those who were descendants of the Priestleyan type of Christianity and who preferred to trumpet the denominational name. The Monthly Repository represented the literary and cultural as well as theological interests of Unitarians and promoted increasingly radical views in all aspects of life, as Francis Mineka explores in The Dissidence of Dissent (Mineka 1944). The Prospective Review was radical not so much in politics but in theology and was eager to review the latest works on Biblical criticism, science, art, poetry, and literature. The depth and breadth of its articles appealed to the better-educated Unitarians. The Inquirer has reflected the interests and values of British Unitarianism for over a century and a half, but its rival, the Christian Life, demonstrated that there were always different strands in Unitarianism. For American journals, see American Bibliographies and Repositories.

          • Christian Life. 1876–1929.

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            Established as a rival magazine to the Inquirer in 1876 by Robert Spears. Conservative voice of Unitarianism. Interesting for articles on Unitarianism by Alexander Gordon, weekly articles by the Egyptologist and biblical scholar and translator Samuel Spears, and for obituaries. Merged with the Inquirer in 1929. Available in the John Rylands University Library in Manchester.

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          • Christian Reformer. 1815–1863.

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            Founded by Robert Aspland and edited by him from 1815–1844. Less controversial than Monthly Repository and aimed at a humbler class. Enlarged in 1834 with a new series that continued until 1863 with the subtitle Unitarian Magazine and Review. 1834 articles particularly illustrate the opposition Unitarians faced from Anglican and militant evangelical periodicals.

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          • Inquirer. 1842–.

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            1842 to present. Title reflects Unitarian commitment to free enquiry. The journal’s aim is to serve Unitarianism. An interesting brief history of this was written in 1992 by Keith Gilley (The Inquirer: A History and other Reflections, Inquirer Publishing Company, London). It includes contributions from 20th-century editors and a guide to sources for a full history.

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          • Mineka, Francis E. The Dissidence of Dissent: The Monthly Repository, 1806–38. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1944.

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            Shows how the Monthly Repository began as part of Robert Aspland’s drive to organize the Unitarians, blend their cultural and theological interests, and safeguard both scriptural Christianity and liberty of conscience. Most of its writers were Unitarians, but it had a wealth of theological, political, educational, and literary articles that widened further once William Johnson Fox became the editor.

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          • Monthly Repository. 1806–1838.

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            Founded by Rev. Robert Aspland and edited by him until 1826; largely contributed to and read by Unitarians. Wealth of theological, political, educational, and literary articles that widened further once William Johnson Fox became the editor. He transformed the journal into a significant radical magazine, attracting men and women of progressive sympathies until the journal’s publication ended in 1838.

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          • Prospective Review: A Quarterly Journal of Theology and Literature. 1845–1855.

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            Replaced The Christian Teacher and Chronicle in 1845, which had included articles by Unitarians such as Lant Carpenter and Harriet Martineau. Lengthy articles on theological, educational, scientific, and literary works reflected the “catholic, spiritual, and progressive” views of new editors J. H. Thom, J. J. Tayler, Charles Wicksteed, and James Martineau. It became the National Review from 1855 to 1864, edited by Richard Holt Hutton (replaced in 1862 by Charles Henry Pearson) and the non-Unitarian Walter Bagehot.

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          Historical Journals

          Unitarians have their own historical journals, Enlightenment and Dissent and Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society, which cover the history of Unitarianism and Unitarians. The articles in the latter are particularly relevant in all sections of this bibliography. The journals of other societies devoted to the study of particular Unitarians often have relevant articles, as the Gaskell Journal and the Martineau Society Newsletter exemplify.

          • Enlightenment and Dissent. 1982–.

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            Annual journal that grew out of the Price-Priestley Newsletter. Although focused on the 18th century, has many articles, notes, and reviews, especially on Richard Price and Joseph Priestley, that are useful for understanding Unitarianism in the 19th century.

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          • Gaskell Journal 1987–.

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            Annual publication of the Gaskell Society since 1987. Refereed, scholarly journal with articles and reviews from across the world. A rich source on Elizabeth Gaskell, her husband William, and her Unitarian associations and networks. Articles directly addressing Gaskell’s Unitarianism appear in volume 6 (1992) and volume 15 (2001).

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          • Martineau Society Newsletter. 1994–.

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            Many articles on the life and writings of Harriet, James, and others of the Martineau family and their Unitarian associations and networks. Back issues from 1994 to the present and an index to them are available on the Society’s website, together with biographical material and details of relevant publications.

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          • Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society. 1917–.

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            Indexes to names, places, and subjects appearing in the articles 1987–2006 are given consecutively in supplements to Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society 19.4 (1990); 20.4 (1994); 21.4 (1998); 22.4 (2002); 23.4 (2006). A List of the Articles and Notes which have appeared in the Transactions 1917–2002 is in the supplement to Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society 23 Part 1 (2003). Other supplements include Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society 24.3 (2009), on Unitarian members of Parliament and 22.2 (2000), 23.3 (2005), 23.4 (2006), 24.1 (2007) on obituaries of Unitarian ministers 1800–1999.

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          British Unitarian History

          British Unitarianism evolved chiefly in the late 18th century from Presbyterians and other nonconformist groups, together with some who seceded from the Anglican Church. The conflicts of succeeding generations within Unitarianism, especially the more “catholic” and the more aggressively “Unitarian” wings, which differed both socially and intellectually in the 19th century, were partly an inheritance from the previous century and partly arose from fresh interpretations drawn from German thinkers and the American minister William Ellery Channing, which were advanced principally by James Martineau and others. Unitarians were found largely in the middle classes, although some were from the more articulate working classes. Not all were wealthy, but some leading industrialists, business people, and, increasingly, professional people were among them. Despite their small numbers and the calumny they suffered as a religious group, they were in the vanguard of struggles for Dissenting rights and parliamentary, municipal, educational, and social reform, and they became municipal leaders and even MPs from the 1830s onwards in many of the large towns and cities where they flourished most. Most of these roles were reserved for men, but Unitarian women, often educated well above the norm for women during that time, did much in culture, education, and social reform, not least in fighting for women’s rights. This aspect has received far more attention from historians in the last two decades than formerly. For further reading, see the subsections and also Historical Journals and Biography.

          Late 18th and Early 19th Century

          A section on the late 18th century is necessary for understanding the evolution of Unitarianism, particularly in Britain. Schofield 2004, an excellent recent volume on Priestley, is included, as Priestley was crucial to these developments. Rivers and Wykes 2008 offers a very accessible introduction to many aspects of his ideas and activities. Ditchfield 2007 and McCarthy 2008 both bring a wealth of scholarship to unfold, in different ways, the lives of two of the most eminent Unitarians of the period and, in doing so, tell us much about the contemporary Unitarian scene. Walker and Ditchfield 2010 is valuable for collating recent scholarship on a range of Rational Dissenting women. Lincoln 1938, a closely argued text, is worth perusal for those exploring deeply the moral and political philosophy of Rational Dissenters. Aspland 1850 and Le Breton 1874 are useful for understanding different aspects of the world of early 19th century Unitarianism. See Journals, Religion and Philosophy, and Education and Science for further relevant works.

          • Aspland, Robert Brook. Memoir of the Life, Works and Correspondence of the Rev. Robert Aspland of Hackney. London: Edward T. Whitfield, 1850.

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            Minister at Gravel Pit, Hackney, 1805–1844. Played a crucial role in the evolution of a more popular Unitarianism, including founding the Unitarian Fund, Non-Con Club, Hackney Academy (1812–1819), Unitarian Fund Society, and British and Foreign Unitarian Association. Important in Dissenting politics. Established and edited Monthly Repository and the Christian Reformer and founded the Christian Tract Society.

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          • Ditchfield, Grayson M., ed. The Letters of Theophilus Lindsey (1723–1808). Vol. 1, 1747–1788. Church of England Record Society Series 15. Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2007.

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            Three hundred and eighty letters of a controversial clergyman who turned from Latitudinarian Anglicanism to become a significant leader of Unitarianism. The letters show the author’s developments in religious, political, and literary sympathies as well as his character, life, and relationships with leading figures in Rational Dissent. Careful, detailed annotation. Includes a history of Lindsey’s career and short biographies of the recipients.

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          • Le Breton, Anna Letitia, ed. Correspondence of William Ellery Channing and Lucy Aikin, from 1826–1842. London: Williams and Norgate, 1874.

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            Fascinating correspondence between a leader of American Unitarianism and an English author related to Anna Barbauld and other Unitarian intellectuals. Lively comments on contemporary Unitarians and religious, intellectual, cultural, social, economic, and political developments, including the position of women and Channing’s influence. The authors met many leading Unitarians and others, such as Ram Mohun Roy.

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          • Lincoln, Anthony. Some Political and Social Ideas of English Dissent, 1763–1800. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1938.

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            Thorough investigation into the development of the Dissenting moral and political philosophy. Explains society’s hatred of Dissent, especially of Rational Dissenters, who were its cultural, though disliked, leaders. Shows the importance for political philosophy of Price and Priestley and the debates on the Test and Corporation Acts and the French Revolution. The author’s arguments are a useful stimulus for more modern scholarship.

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          • McCarthy, William. Anna Letitia Barbauld: Voice of the Enlightenment. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

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            Deeply researched, this absorbing biography of this very significant woman in Georgian England is fully referenced and contains appropriate images and appendices. Shows how Barbauld’s brilliant writing, championship of Dissenting rights, critique of perceived abuses, and progressive educational work stemmed from the liberal and educational principles of Rational Dissent.

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          • Rivers, Isabel, and David Wykes, eds. Joseph Priestley, Scientist, Philosopher, and Theologian. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

            DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199215300.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Useful short, but scholarly, up-to-date and accessible collection of essays covering Priestley as minister, educationalist, scientist, philosopher, theologian, political thinker, and historian, together with an account of his last years in America and a summary of his life.

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          • Schofield, Robert E. The Enlightened Joseph Priestley: A Study of His Life and Work from 1773 to 1804. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2004.

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            A brilliant intellectual history of this polymath of the British Enlightenment. This second volume of Schofield’s biography continues with the careful and deep research that enables a thorough analysis of Priestley’s prolific writings, setting each source in context and investigating who influenced Priestley and whom Priestley influenced.

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          • Walker, Gina Luria, and G. M. Ditchfield, eds. Special Issue: Intellectual Exchanges: Women and Rational Dissent. Enlightenment and Dissent 26 (2010).

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            Subtitled “Intellectual Exchanges: Women and Rational Dissent,” this has ten articles on women in Rational Dissent or closely connected to it, like Mary Wollstonecraft in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Very useful for understanding the legacy of these women to both Unitarianism and the women’s movement.

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          19th Century

          From the wealth of materials available, Bolam, et al. 1968, Gordon 1895, Holt 1938, and McLachlan 1934 have been chosen as standard works on Unitarianism that are still worth reading, although modern scholarship is revising and extending their work. Bolam, et al. 1968 gives a useful account of the evolution of Unitarianism in England, Gordon 1895 gives a framework and is useful in itself as a late-19th-century view from a leading Unitarian scholar, Holt 1938 covers the wide range of reform activities in which Unitarians were involved, and McLachlan 1934 presents a detailed history of the religious and cultural contribution of English Unitarians over two centuries. Smith 2004 includes a very useful essay on the history of English Unitarianism and, in telling the history of the college that educated men to minister to less privileged Unitarians, also gives much information about significant Unitarian ministers and networks. Presbyterian Chapels is a mine for local historians, while Bushrod 1954 exemplifies examining the full range of Unitarian activities in one locality. Seed 1986 analyzes the social and ideological functions of Unitarianism in different localities. Historical Journals, Biography, Religion and Philosophy, Education and Science, and Political Economy, Social Reform, and Politics should be consulted for further relevant materials.

          • Bolam, Charles G., Jeremy Goring, Henry L. Short, and Roger Thomas. The English Presbyterians: From Elizabethan Puritanism to Modern Unitarianism. London: Allen and Unwin, 1968.

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            Scholarly account of complex interactions over three hundred years through which Unitarianism evolved from the Presbyterianism of 1662. Explains changing foci of succeeding generations, conflicts within Unitarianism, and the meaning of the various names adopted by differing groups. Contends that Unitarians retained what was most distinctive in 17th-century “catholic” Presbyterianism.

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          • Bushrod, Emily. “The History of Unitarianism in Birmingham from the Middle of the Eighteenth Century to 1893.” MA diss., University of Birmingham, 1954.

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            Based largely on extensive manuscripts as well as unpublished and published material in the Birmingham City Library, this is a detailed history of the Unitarian societies and chapels in Birmingham, analyzing the development of doctrine, their administration, finances, and religious positioning, their extensive charitable and educational activities, social background, and civic and political activities.

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          • Evans, George Eyre. Presbyterian Chapels. 2 vols. Oxford: HMCO.

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            Two scrapbooks given by George Eyre Evans to HMCO. Contains some manuscripts, especially letters, and many printed items, some from newspapers. There are materials relating to Manchester College and a mine of information concerning Unitarian chapels from 1805 to 1895, including origins, ministers, members, activities, societies, and educational institutions.

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          • Gordon, Alexander. Heads of English Unitarian History: With Appended Lectures on Baxter and Priestley. London: Philip Green, 1895.

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            Late-19th-century view by leading Unitarian historian. Argues that Unitarian history is the “key” to understanding Unitarianism but this history is little known. This book is a framework, plus a few important references, to guide learners. Begins with five pages of chronological landmarks and ends with appendices giving fuller treatment on significant events.

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          • Holt, Raymond V. The Unitarian Contribution to Social Progress in England. London: Allen and Unwin, 1938.

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            Revised edition published by the Lindsey Press in 1952; an established work detailing the contribution of Unitarians to industrial progress, parliamentary reform, and movements for human rights and economic theory as well as social, educational, and local government reform, but needs to be used with care and in light of modern research. Useful overview on Unitarian structure and growth.

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          • McLachlan, Herbert. The Unitarian Movement in the Religious Life of England. London: Allen and Unwin, 1934.

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            Detailed, indispensable starting point for research into Unitarian contributions to Biblical criticism, education—schools, academies, and the modern university movement—journalism, periodical literature, history, biography, literature, philosophy, and religion, over two centuries. References could be more detailed.

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          • Seed, John. “Theologies of Power: Unitarianism and the Social Relations of Religious Discourse, 1800–1850.” In Class, Power and Social Structure in British Nineteenth-Century Towns. Edited by R. J. Morris, 108–156. Leicester, UK: Leicester University Press, 1986.

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            Thought-provoking essay discussing the social and ideological functions of Unitarianism in 19th-century commercial towns, with examples from northwest England. Shows how Unitarians contributed to a liberal public sphere, with their chapels acting as a nexus of power relations. Highlights the importance of paternalism and networks in Unitarianism.

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          • Smith, Leonard, ed. Unitarian to the Core: Unitarian College Manchester, 1854–2004. Manchester: Carnegie Publishing on behalf of Unitarian College, 2004.

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            Very useful introductory chapter by R. K. Webb on English Unitarianism, its divisions, and its networks. Chapters include the contributions of the founders—John Relly Beard and William Gaskell— to the Unitarian Home Missionary Board (UHMB), later College (UHMC); the work of other principals, especially Alexander Gordon; and links with Ireland, Transylvania, and Hungary.

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          American Unitarian History

          Cooke 1902, Harris 2009, and Robinson 1985 give the history of Unitarianism in America, while Howe 1970 and Wright 1989 explore more deeply the moral philosophy and theological differences within the movement. Delbanco 1981 does this through exploring the evolving thinking of William Ellery Channing, the most influential American Unitarian of the period, as Grodzins 2002 does for Theodore Parker, a leading Transcendentalist. Tucker 1990 describes and analyzes how female Unitarians fared as ministers within a movement that was both egalitarian and patriarchal. See General Overviews, American Bibliographies and Repositories, Biography and Social and Educational Ideas in Literature for further works.

          • Cooke, George Willis. Unitarianism in America: A History of Its Origin and Development. Boston: American Unitarian Association, 1902.

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            History of Unitarianism in the United States aimed at those new to it. Brief on theological controversies but detailed on organization and growth and a wide range of women’s and men’s religious, charitable, educational, cultural, scientific, and social reform work. Available on Kindle and as a Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation e-book.

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          • Delbanco, Andrew. William Ellery Channing: An Essay on the Liberal Spirit in America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1981.

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            Depicts Channing’s life mainly through examining his writings. Useful for tracing development of Channing’s religious, intellectual, political, and antislavery ideas and the internal conflicts he had to resolve between Lockean rationality and Romanticism, Unitarian “orthodoxy” and transcendentalism, legal constitutionalism and slavery. Provides a cue to conflicts within contemporary American Unitarianism.

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          • Grodzins, Dean. American Heretic: Theodore Parker and Transcendentalism. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.

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            Substantial, well-referenced biography of very influential thinker who became a major leader of both the Transcendentalist and antislavery movements, challenging how people thought about religious truth and about American democracy. Finishes in 1846, when Parker left his Unitarian pulpit for a “free church,” but Grodzins has subsequently written supplementary articles.

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          • Harris, Mark W. The A to Z of Unitarian Universalism. A to Z Guides 34. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2009.

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            Includes chronology, an introduction, a dictionary of events, institutions, places, and Unitarians, illustrating their role in social reform, education, politics, science, and religion, and a bibliography. Primarily American but does look wider, although little on Britain. Available on Kindle.

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          • Howe, Daniel Walker. The Unitarian Conscience: Harvard Moral Philosophy, 1805–1861. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1970.

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            Sympathetic analysis of the moral philosophy of the Unitarian clergymen controlling Boston and Harvard in this period. Traces origins and development of their ideas and theology within their religious, political, economic, and social context. Considers closely their place in American culture, education, philanthropy, and slavery, as well as dichotomies in their ideas.

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          • Robinson, David. The Unitarians and the Universalists. Denominations in America 1. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1985.

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            History of separate streams of Unitarian and Universalist liberal religious thinking in America and their gradual convergence. Illustrates how they sought improvements in religious thinking, intellectual freedom, and social reform. Followed by useful biographical dictionary with bibliographical sources that can be used independently of the text.

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          • Tucker, Cynthia Grant. Prophetic Sisterhood: Liberal Women Ministers of the Frontier, 1880–1930. Boston: Beacon, 1990.

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            Introduces the principal figures from the small group of women Unitarians and Universalists who became ministers—largely on the frontier—in the late 19th century. Examines their role in creating strong congregational life and their struggles both against orthodox religion and the male power base in their own denominations.

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          • Wright, Conrad Edick, ed. American Unitarianism, 1805–1865. Massachusetts Historical Society Studies in American History and Culture 1. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1989.

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            Mature reflections of leading historians of American Unitarianism in the late 1980s, extending their scholarship and suggesting new investigations. Covers different aspects of the early-19th-century Unitarian controversy, the varying relationship between Unitarianism and Transcendentalism, and the significance of Unitarian literature and social and economic interests. Published with Northeastern University Press.

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          Religion and Philosophy

          Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society is an excellent source for scholarship on this key aspect of Unitarianism as it is on most others. Carpenter 1903 demonstrates both the author’s own scholarship in 19th century Biblical studies and that of other Unitarians. Priestley 1817–1832, Channing 1819, Martineau 1843, and Martineau 1890–1891 introduce students to three of the most influential Unitarian thinkers of the 19th century, while Waller 1986 offers a more succinct, modern analysis of Martineau’s thinking and influence. Peart 2005 is a timely reminder of the influence Unitarian women such as Barbauld, Cobbe, and the women in the Martineau network had on Unitarianism. Channing 1819 exemplifies the fact that sermons, many of which are available in sites found in Bibliographies and Repositories and Reference Works, are an excellent source of Unitarian thinking on religion, philosophy, education, biography, and a whole range of issues current at the time of preaching (see also British Unitarian History, Biography and Historical Journals).

          • Carpenter, Joseph Estlin. The Bible in the Nineteenth Century: Eight Lectures. London: Longmans, 1903.

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            Readable, popular book on changing understanding of the Bible through research in higher criticism by a foremost pioneer in biblical studies and comparative religion who was also professor at Manchester College, London and later principal of the latter in Oxford. Helped secure a wider acceptance of biblical criticism in Britain.

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          • Channing, William Ellery. “Unitarian Christianity,” 1819. In Classical American Unitarian Christian Sermons and Writings.

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            This sermon delivered on 5 May 1819 by the Boston minister whose replies to attacks on Boston liberals in 1815 had made him the leader of American Unitarianism became a defining statement and classic of rational religion in America. Led to the formation of the American Unitarian Association in 1825. Also published under the care of the Rev. R. E. B. Maclellan (People’s Edition of the Entire Works of W. E. Channing, D.D., Vol. 1. Belfast: Simms and McIntyre, 1843; pp. 530–551).

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          • Martineau, James. Endeavours after the Christian Life. London: H. R. Allenson, 1843.

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            This collection of sermons (plus a second series in 1847) reveals Martineau’s devotional thoughts at the time when the influences of Blanco White, Channing, Kant, and others were substantially changing his religious views. Stimulating nine editions by 1892, it was probably Martineau’s most popular book. Had an influence beyond Unitarianism.

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          • Martineau, James. Essays, Reviews, and Addresses. 4 vols. London: Longmans, Green, 1890–1891.

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            Shows the range, evolution, and depth of Martineau’s thinking. Volume 1 covers personal and political essays, including Martineau’s thoughts on Priestley, Channing, Kenrick, Schleirmacher, and Comte; Volume 2 covers historical and ecclesiastical topics; volume 3 includes philosophical reviews, including ones on Spencer, Mansel, and J. S. Mill; and volume 4 includes college addresses and miscellaneous sermons.

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          • Peart, Ann. “Forgotten Prophets: The Lives of Unitarian Women, 1760–1904.” PhD diss., Newcastle University, 2005.

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            Original in examining the role and influence women had within Unitarianism itself. Analyzes Anna Barbauld’s long and formative influence on generations of Unitarians; how Unitarian women helped form a more cohesive denomination through their networks, correspondence, and familial ties; and the impact on Unitarianism of Frances Power Cobbe’s religious ideas.

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          • Priestley, Joseph. The Theological and Miscellaneous Works of Joseph Priestley. 25 vols. Edited by John T. Rutt. London: G. Smallfield, 1817–1832.

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            Prolific writings of controversial leader of Unitarianism, constitutional reformer, renowned scientist, and progressive educationalist in the late 18th century. Clear, readable books, articles, and letters on his religious, philosophical, educational, scientific, and social thinking and multifarious activities. Memoirs show extensive national and international connections (printed by private subscription).

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          • Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society. 1917–.

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            Published annually, contains many useful and interesting articles and reviews on the history and development of Unitarianism and on individual Unitarians. Every four years an index to the articles, notes, supplements, and persons contained in the articles and notes is published. Some special editions, for example, on James Martineau in 2002.

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          • Waller, Ralph. “James Martineau: The Development of His Religious Thought.” In Truth, Liberty, Religion: Essays Celebrating Two Hundred Years of Manchester College. Edited by Barbara Smith, 225–264. Oxford: Manchester College, 1986.

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            Useful essay exploring the evolution of Martineau’s religious philosophy and beliefs towards more emotional and affective worship and a religion based on conscience and critical reason. Shows who most influenced him. Argues that the most significant debate on science and religion of the period was Martineau’s with the scientist John Tyndall.

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          Education and Science

          Education was so important to Unitarians that there are many sources to choose from. Citations throughout this bibliography often contain much on education. Sermons are useful, as are records on chapels. Many ministers ran schools, as did a number of women. Some of these published books or articles on their educational ideas and work that can be found in local libraries. In this section, Watts 1998 directly examines the educational philosophy of English Unitarians during the years 1760 to 1860 and how it was applied in all kinds of educational ventures. In particular, Watts 1998 explores its implications for gender and the empowerment of women; while Watts 2011, an article on Harriet Martineau, analyzes the influence Unitarianism had on a prime Victorian cultural figure. Aikin and Barbauld 1793 is a key example of Unitarian educational ideas and practice; Channing 1838 is a good example of typical Unitarian assertions of everyone’s right to develop their full potential, Unitarian practice on this in England being amply exemplified in McLachlan 1934. Smith 1986 and Tuke 1939 investigate the contributions made by two prime institutions run by Unitarians and the opportunities and problems inherent in them, while Sims 2010 explores a vital area of education in which Unitarians played a huge role. See also relevant publications in British Unitarian History, Biography, Religion and Philosophy, Political Economy, Social Reform, and Politics, and Social and Educational Ideas in Literature.

          • Aikin, John, and Anna Laetitia Barbauld. Evenings at Home: Or, the Juvenile Budget Opened. London: Joseph Johnson, 1793.

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            Constantly republished and expanded during the 19th century, this joint work is a prime example of Unitarian education, promoting liberal, humane, useful family learning for both sexes and all ages in a modern education, incorporating poetry, literature, history, drama, science, and technology, and based on the principles of Hartleian associationism.

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          • Channing, William Ellery. “Self Culture: An Address Introductory to the Franklin Lectures,” 1838. In Classical American Unitarian Christian Sermons and Writings.

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            Going quickly into new editions, this influential address delivered in September 1838 introduced lectures designed principally for manual laborers. Prime statement of Unitarian philosophy that all have the right and capacity to perfect themselves and should be helped to develop moral, religious, intellectual, social, practical, aesthetic, and communicative faculties.

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          • McLachlan, Herbert. The Unitarian Movement in the Religious Life of England. London: Allen and Unwin, 1934.

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            The standard work on the Unitarian contribution to education, culture, and religion for much of the 20th century. Contains much useful detail on educational institutions and how Unitarians educated within and beyond their own religious community through their deep involvement in the print culture.

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          • Sims, Jana. “Mechanics’ Institutes in Sussex and Hampshire: 1825 to 1875.” PhD diss., University of London, 2010.

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            Well-researched and thoughtfully analyzed thesis on an area largely ignored in the history of mechanics’ institutes. Shows the crucial significance of Unitarians in the development of these institutions in the South as in the North and the Midlands of England. Stimulated science, civic pride, female participation, and adult learning.

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          • Smith, Barbara, ed. Truth, Liberty, Religion: Essays Celebrating Two Hundred Years of Manchester College. Oxford: Manchester College, 1986.

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            Covers different aspects of the longest lasting and leading Unitarian educational institution in England, analyzing its contribution to education, philosophy, science, and medicine, its antislavery stance and political economy, its Unitarian background and lay support, and the scholarship and significance of two of its principals, James Martineau and Joseph Estlin Carpenter.

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          • Tuke, Margaret J. A History of Bedford College for Women, 1849–1937. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1939.

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            Founded by a Unitarian, Elizabeth Reid, this pioneering college for women later became the first women’s college to become part of the University of London. Particularly interesting for showing the strong Unitarian support for the college and the problems and opportunities ensuing from this. Excellent biographical notes and appendices.

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          • Watts, Ruth. Gender, Power and the Unitarians in England, 1760–1860. Women and Men in History. London: Longman, 1998.

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            Based on the Unitarian emphasis on “knowledge is power” and promotion of a progressive modern education as the key to changing society. Examines Unitarian involvement in all levels of education for both men and women and how this interrelated with and challenged religious, cultural, and social norms, particularly gender expectations.

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          • Watts, Ruth. “Harriet Martineau and the Unitarian Tradition in Education.” Oxford Review of Education 37.5 (2011): 637–651.

            DOI: 10.1080/03054985.2011.621682Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Analyzes the role of Martineau as a public educator in light of her Unitarian upbringing, heritage, and networks. Examines the development of the Unitarian educational philosophy, psychology, and practice from the late 18th century onward and uses selected works of Martineau to illustrate the Unitarian moral, political, economic, social, and cultural influence on her.

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          Political Economy, Social Reform, and Politics

          In key regions of both Britain and the United States, Unitarians made a significant contribution to political life and social reform in the 19th century out of proportion to their numbers. At the same time, many Unitarians exhibited a keenness for the political economy of their day, which indicated class and paternalistic attitudes. These created problems for the success of some of their educational and social ideals. Exploration of these tensions is a key to understanding fully both the context of Unitarian activities and crucial areas of Victorian life. Many relevant pamphlets and letters by Unitarians and biographical works are very useful in investigating this. In this selection, Carpenter 1851 explores the implicit contradictions between the deeply humanitarian and paternalistic sides to the author’s reforming zeal, as the articles Selleck 1985 and Watts 2000 analyze. Seed 1982 excellently applies such analysis to Unitarianism in Manchester. Simmons 1970–1971, an article on the Leicester Domestic Mission, has been chosen as showing a typical, though relatively small, example of the way locally powerful Unitarian patrons appointed an intelligent missioner, poorer and less well-educated than themselves, who subsequently became a champion of better housing and education for the poor. Unitarians consistently opposed slavery, although some more radically than others. Beard 1863 aimed to demonstrate the moral and intellectual equality of different races, an argument taken up by Unitarian women who were in the vanguard of the fight for women’s rights and emancipation. Gleadle 1995, a searching exploration of radical Unitarians and their networks, has become a standard work for historians of women’s 19th-century history and, once again, demonstrates the importance of women’s history within Unitarianism. Equally, Andrews 2003, an analysis of late-18th-century Unitarian radicalism, proves the significance of this in British political and religious life (see also Bibliographies and Repositories, American Unitarian History, Education and Science and Social and Educational Ideas in Literature).

          • Andrews, Stuart. Unitarian Radicalism: Political Rhetoric, 1770–1814. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

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            Based on meticulous examination of contemporary literature, including pamphlets, books, sermons, and journals, this analysis of the conflicts between Unitarian radicals and the political and church establishment is significant in proving that Unitarian political radicalism in Britain and America was deeply rooted in Christian principles and, at the same time, shaped public discourse.

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          • Beard, John Relly. Toussaint L’Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography. Boston: James Redpath, 1863.

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            First edition published in 1853. As in Harriet Martineau’s fictional account of L’Ouverture’s life, Beard sympathetically portrays this black slave hero who led a successful revolt against imperial rule. Complete with illustrations and L’Ouverture’s autobiography, this exemplifies British Unitarian opposition to slavery, a cause which, in this period, Unitarian women especially espoused.

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          • Carpenter, Mary. Reformatory Schools: For the Children of the Perishing and Dangerous Classes and for Juvenile Offenders. London: C. Gilpin, 1851.

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            Significant publication, establishing Carpenter’s authority as a social reformer. Demonstrated how her humanitarian Unitarian beliefs, tempered by middle-class social assumptions, engendered radical solutions for children who were destitute, potentially criminal, or juvenile delinquents. The title itself is very pertinent. New reprint available (New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1969).

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          • Gleadle, Kathryn. The Early Feminists: Radical Unitarians and the Emergence of the Women’s Rights Movements, 1831–51. New York: St. Martin’s, 1995.

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            First published by Macmillan Press. An essential book for understanding the significance of radical Unitarians who originated from the eclectic group centered on William Johnson Fox and South Place Chapel, London, and were in the vanguard of debates on women’s rights. The group supplied many key personnel for the later narrower, but more successful, campaigns.

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          • Seed, John. “Unitarianism, Political Economy and the Antinomies of Liberal Culture in Manchester, 1830–50.” Social History 7.1 (January 1982): 1–25.

            DOI: 10.1080/03071028208567517Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Stimulating article depicting the educational and social initiatives of the liberal bourgeoisie in Manchester, particularly those of the Unitarians of Cross Street and Mosley Street Chapels, as conflicts among and within the social classes to achieve cultural power. Illustrates the contradictions of liberal ideology and political economy in Unitarian thought and action.

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          • Selleck, R. J. W. “Mary Carpenter: A Confident and Contradictory Reformer.” History of Education 14.2 (June 1985): 101–115.

            DOI: 10.1080/0046760850140202Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Shows how Carpenter, ardent in her Unitarian beliefs and Hartleian educational philosophy, used her Unitarian networks and excellent powers of organization and communication to become a national social and educational reformer. Analyzes dichotomies of her humanitarian yet paternalistic attitudes and her initial social conservatism despite her emergence as a public figure.

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          • Simmons, Jack. “A Victorian Social Worker: Joseph Dare and the Leicester Domestic Mission.” Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society 46 (1970–1971): 65–80.

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            Interesting local example of the domestic missions that the American Joseph Tuckerman inspired among English Unitarians. Dare, an intelligent but poorer and less well-educated Unitarian than his patrons, visited the poor in their homes as a Christian but nonproselytizing adviser, promoting better living conditions, culture, and education.

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          • Watts, Ruth. “Breaking the Boundaries of Victorian Imperialism or Extending a Reformed ‘Paternalism’? Mary Carpenter and India.” History of Education 29.5 (2000): 443–456.

            DOI: 10.1080/00467600050120351Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            Analysis of Carpenter’s educational reforms in India; Carpenter is seen by some historians as a bourgeois and imperialistic, albeit humane, reformer, yet hailed by some Indian historians as a rare truly liberal intervener on race, culture, and gender. More recent, as yet unpublished, research is challenging how beneficial her reforms were.

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          Social and Educational Ideas in Literature

          From the late 18th century, Unitarians used fiction to convey their ideals. Harriet Martineau famously did this in her twenty-five novelettes on political economy, Illustrations of Political Economy; both the full edition (Martineau 1832–1834) and a well-edited selection (Martineau 2004) are cited here. Other authors, principally female, used fiction less didactically to convey their exploration of moral, educational, social, and economic ideas, as Martineau herself was to do in her two novels, Martineau 1983 and Martineau 1841. In many of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels and short stories, she showed her sympathy with those who seek knowledge but are deprived of it by poverty, class, or gender and explored how far women could gain knowledge, autonomy, and power. Gaskell 1970a and Gaskell 1970b are two of her novels that explored the rights and duties of employees and employers, especially in times of recession. Alcott 1989 was a prime American example of a book that conveyed subtly the moral, educational, and social ideas with which the author had grown up. The Internet provides cheap access to publications that no longer are bound by copyright. See also Biography and American Unitarian History.

          • Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. Penguin Classics. New York: Penguin, 1989.

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            First edition in 1868; this one edited and introduced by Elaine Showalter. Alcott conveyed in her most famous writings the morals and ideas imbibed from her transcendentalist and educator father and suffragist and abolitionist mother and their friends Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller. Little Women is an excellent example.

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          • Gaskell, Elizabeth. Mary Barton: A Tale of Manchester Life. Penguin English Library. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1970a.

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            First edition published in 1848. Explores the meaning of political economy through the eyes of the workers. Some industrialists at Cross Street Chapel were sympathetic, but others were furious at their minister’s wife’s betrayal of their interests, although they accepted her right to express her own views.

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          • Gaskell, Elizabeth. North and South. Penguin English Library. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1970b.

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            First edition published in 1854–1855; this novel is more sympathetic to the employer’s views than Mary Barton, but Gaskell still wanted personal contact to improve industrial relations and expressed great sympathy for industrial workers. Interesting both in use of Unitarian texts in reply to religious doubts and on character of an independently minded heroine.

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          • Martineau, Harriet. Illustrations of Political Economy. 9 vols. London: Charles Fox, 1832–1834.

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            Martineau, determined to help everyone to understand the “truths” of political economy, which she believed to be an important “science,” became nationally famous (notorious to some) for these, published monthly during the years 1832 through 1834. Each story, complete with a summary of its principles, illustrates one facet of political economy (available as a Google e-book).

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          • Martineau, Harriet. The Hour and the Man: A Historical Romance. 3 vols. London: Edward Moxon, 1841.

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            Historical novel based on extensive research, written after Martineau’s meeting of Unitarians and her active involvement in the anti-slavery movement in the United States. Unusual in portraying a black man as a hero. Shows both that slaves can become intelligent and virtuous through the right (European) education and that Europeans can be corrupted by slavery.

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          • Martineau, Harriet. Deerbrook. Virago Modern Classics. London: Virago, 1983.

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            First edition published in 1839. Illustrates many typical Unitarian social, educational, and scientific ideas. Shows how populace needed education in science and hygiene to understand the new advances in medicine and scientific control of epidemics that well-educated medical practitioners were trying to promote. Unusual depiction of a well-educated governess who remains independent.

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          • Martineau, Harriet. Illustrations of Political Economy: Selected Tales. Edited by Deborah Anna Logan. Broadview Editions. New York: Broadview, 2004.

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            Four selected Tales, together with contemporary reviews and other reform documents. Has an excellent introduction explaining the context and Martineau’s intellectual debt to others, including Joseph Priestley. Comments on her Unitarian upbringing, her significance as an educator and popularizer of political economy, and the continuing relevance of her work.

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          LAST MODIFIED: 05/28/2013

          DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199799558-0121

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