According to Alan Argent, Larsen's study of Victorian Dissenters' attitudes towards politics corrects the idea that Protestant support for religious equality was "mere rhetoric":
They championed conscientiously the rights of the Jews, of Roman Catholics and of other who, like themselves suffered from legal discrimination in Victorian England. The role of theology and ecclesiology in informing these Dissenters' political philosophy is not overlooked by Dr Larsen. For Baptists and Congregationalists, an established church was wrong "not because it was bad politics but because it was bad theology". Indeed he argues convincingly, in his thoughtful and readable work, that theology has been largely ignored by previous historians in this field and that it moved the various representatives of Old Dissent, in particular, beyond the defence of their own special interests. The positions taken by the Wesleyan Methodists are also considered but often in contrast to the stances adopted by the Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers, and sometimes Unitarians.
Larsen tackles the contemporary grievances, disestablishment, state education, temperance, sabbatarianism, moral reform in general, and pacifism. The discussion of each concern is informed by reference to original source material, as well as to more recent studies. The struggle of the Evangelical dissenters of mid-nineteenth century England to develop a coherent view of the duties of government produced their legacy of the notion of religious equality before the law. We are all in their debt for that.
Follow for sample passages from Larsen:
- Politics and Theology in Victorian Dissent
- The Protestant Fight for Jewish Civil Liberties in Victorian England
Argent, Alan. Review of Larsen in Congregational History Circle. Pp. 144-5.
Larsen, Timothy. Friends of Religious Equality. Nonconformist Politics in Mid-Victorian England. Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk: 1999. ISBN 0 85115 726 2.
Added 23 September 2000