The Science of Religion in Britain, 1860–1915
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of Virginia Press
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In the course of writing this study I have received essential supportâintellectual, financial, and emotionalâfrom many individuals and institutions. It is a pleasure to attempt here to acknowledge some of these debts.T. W. Heyck guided and advised me through the first stages of this project many years ago, and his support and thoughtful criticisms were invaluable....
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Loss of faith in traditional Christian beliefs and the accompanying erosion of the intellectual and cultural authority of the churches have long been central problems in the history of Victorian Britain. Historians have approached the topic from several angles, examining the complex causes and sources of unbelief, pursuing an understanding of its impact through biographical studies of famous ââdoubters,ââ and more recently, turning to the investigation...
1. The Study of Religion before 1860
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To characterize the science of religion as a response to secularizing trendswithin a single national culture may seem myopic from the perspective of amore cosmopolitan history of the human sciences. After all, it was not only in Britain that religion became an object of supposedly scientific scrutiny. To name just a few of the more prominent thinkersâEmile Burnouf and Ernest...
2. The Annunciation of a New Science
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In 1845 and 1846, F. D. Maurice preached a series of sermons entitled ââThe Religions of the World and Their Relations to Christianity,ââ the aim of which, as he said, was not to ââsearchââ for the ââabsurditiesââ of non-Christian faiths but to discover the ââliving wantsââ and the permanent âânecessities of manâs beingââthat all religions were called upon to satisfy. The project had been an...
3. The Forging of an Anthropological Orthodoxy
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Among the many observers who hailed Max MÃ¼llerâs ââscience of religionââ as a welcome sign of the times, few displayed greater enthusiasm than Edward Burnett Tylor, the man who was to become the founding father and first academic representative of British social anthropology. Tylor, writing in 1868,saw in the public response to MÃ¼llerâs work an unmistakable indication that...
4. The Antipositivist Critique
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In the end, the most searching critique of Tylorâs message came not from Christian thinkers or their allies, but from one of his own earliest and most ardent disciples, Andrew Lang. But then Lang was always somewhat out of place in the role of ââjackalââ to Tylorâs ââlion.ââ Tylor had journeyed from liberal Dissent via an intentionally modern, science-oriented program of...
5. A New Departure
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In his attempt to defend the autonomy of religion from an all-embracing evolutionism, Andrew Lang had lashed out against the anthropological establishment that had grown up in Britain during the 1870s and 1880s. Of course, his attitude was an ambivalent one, for while attacking the positivistic tendencies which seemed to him to be gaining ground in the new field, he also...
6. The Orthodoxy Monumentalized
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In a memorial tribute to William Robertson Smith written in 1911, the French scholar Salomon Reinach concluded a recital of his subjectâs virtues and accomplishments by pointing to the greatest achievement of allâââGenuit Frazerum!ââ Forty years later, it would have been difficult to find many anthropologists or sociologists who would...
7. The Redefinition of Religion
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The work of Jane Ellen Harrison, pioneering female classicist and contemporary of Frazer, regularly met with caustic criticism from well-establishedmale colleagues. For example, in a letter to her friend and intellectual ally Gilbert Murray, Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, the famed philologist, dismissed Harrisonâs Themis thus: ââIn matters of religion I remain...
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In 1962, the distinguished anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard delivered a series of lectures entitled ââTheories of Primitive Religionââ which included a historical survey and critical analysis of the contributions of British scholars during the period from about 1850 to the First World War. His concluding judgment was harsh: the theories themselves were as ââdead as mutton,ââ and it...
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Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2010