Miracles in Enlightenment England

Jane Shaw

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The Enlightenment, considered an age of rationalism, is not normally associated with miracles. In this intriguing book, however, Jane Shaw presents accounts of inscrutable miracles that occurred to ordinary worshippers in early modern England. She considers the reactions of intellectuals, scientists, and physicians to these miraculous events and through them explores the relations between popular and elite culture of the time.
Miraculous events in England between the 1650s and the 1750s were experienced mainly not by Catholics, but by Protestants. The book looks at the political and social context of these events as well as interpretations and explanations of them by scientists, the Court, and the Church, as well as by preachers, pamphleteers, friends, and neighbors. Shaw links the lived religion of the time to intellectual history and amends the hitherto received view. The religious practice of ordinary people was as crucial to the development of Enlightenment thought as the philosophical and theological writings of the elite.

Jane Shaw is dean of divinity, chaplain, and fellow of New College, Oxford.

“Ambitious and engaging . . . it makes a valuable contribution to the scholarship on miracles and belief, but also to the broader history of ideas and religion in the period.”—Justin Champion, Royal Holloway University of London

'While Jane Shaw's study is by no means the first attempt to deconstruct the Enlightenment, expand its chronological parameters, or assert its religious roots, it applies formidable theological learning and sound historical insight on an important subject.  It is also an inspiring example of how the history of ideas, and the social history of religion, can be brought together in fruitful conversation.'  - Peter Marshall, Times Literary Supplement

"An enticing read . . . for those literary scholars who have been piecing together the theories of probability, imposture, and fiction demanded by the emergence of the novel."—Deidre Lynch, Studies in English Literature

"Rich and entertaining. . . . While Shaw's is surely not the last word on the miracles debate, it is the best. And anyone who follows after into the subject will have to take account of her provocative book."—Robert G. Ingram, Anglican and Episcopal History

"Fascinating. . . . The key contribution of this volume is a rich contextualization of the debate on miracles—familiar from the writing of David Hume and Bishop Butler—by relating it to lived religious experience. . . . Through clear prose and circumspect claims, Shaw situates these miracle cases at the heart of the Habermasian emerging public sphere."—Lori Branch, American Historical Review
ISBN: 9780300197686
Publication Date: September 25, 2006
288 pages, 234 x 156
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