decorated capital 'H'alévy's famous thesis sought to answer the question of why the revolutions that convulsed the continent of Europe from 1789 did not have their counterpart in England. He concluded that the religious revival that took place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially that of the Methodists, had so transformed the English spirit that the nation shrunk from revolution. Few professional historicans since then have agreed with Halévy, largely because they have not accepted the proposition that so few Methodists could have had that kind of transforming effect. Some historians of the left, most famously E. P. Thompson and E. J. Hobsbawm, have more or less agreed with Halévy's position, although without the favorable assessment. Their position, similar to Marx's, has been that the religious sentiments connected with Methodism had a kind of soporific effect that numbed the sensibilities of the people to the misery of their condition, thus permitting conditions of injustice to persist that revolution might have put aright.

This paper takes the position that the initial assumption that there was no revolution in England is mistaken, that most of the critics took the wrong end of Halévy's proposition to take issue with. If we assume that a revolution is more than a change in governance, that it entails a change in sensibilities of the society -- people thinking differently, looking at life differently, having a different world view -- then it ought to be concluded that a revolution did take place in England in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It was not a coup or a succession of coups, as in France, but a change of heart and mind that was so profound as to make England a different place. As one scholar puts it, Victorianism prepared the way for Victoria. This paper argues the point, using material from the such sources as the Methodists, the Evangelicals, the Romantic poets, Thomas Arnold, Coleridge, Carlyle, and popular culture.

Content last modified 1998