University of Leicester
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Encountering and managing the poor: rural society and the Anglican clergy in Norfolk, 1815-1914.

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posted on 2009-04-16, 12:03 authored by Robert James Lee
This thesis is an exploration of the relationship between Anglican clergymen and the inhabitants of Norfolk's rural parishes in the nineteenth century. It considers the potential impact clergymen could have upon a number of areas of secular life: on education as school managers, on law and order as magistrates, and on aspects of local economic, social and behavioural management as poor law guardians and charity trustees. Clergymen also negotiated a complex series of social relationships with agricultural labourers, with religious Nonconformists, with trade unionists, with tenant farmers, and with local landowners (who were often their patrons or kinsmen). The thesis examines many facets of social, religious and political dissent in the countryside, and discusses the extent to which individual clergymen - by their attitudes and actions - might exacerbate or soothe tensions within their 'spheres of influence'. The notion of clergymen as 'colonial governors' is posited. The term offers an explanation for their managerial role in local society, and elucidates the way in which the parish clergy operated as administrators rather than instigators of change. Nineteenth-century rural society also witnessed the decline of a once-vibrant popular culture, based on an affinity with nature and lived to the rhythm of calendrical custom. It is argued that popular culture was actively suppressed by parish elites and that the Church played a pivotal role in the process of suppression. The pageantry of parish entertainments, the re-casting of the law so that it acted against custom, the rise of the clergyman as antiquarian historian and amateur archaeologist, the symbolism and architecture of the restored church and the newly-built Rectory are all cited as being of iconic significance in this respect. By blending qualitative and quantitative methods, the thesis aims to build an holistic picture of the way in which two cultures encountered each other in the nineteenth-century countryside, and explains how one culture came to dominate, incorporate and manage the other.



Snell, Keith

Date of award


Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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