Chance, Percy Frederick (1982). RELIGION AND POLITICS IN BIRMINGHAM 1830-1850. BPhil thesis The Open University.



This study examines the manner and extent to which religious belief influenced political behaviour in Birmingham between I83O and 1850. Political alliance and religious affiliation in the town became in extricably entwined in 1829 following Roman Catholic emancipation and the increasing pressure for parliamentary reform. Factional antagonism surfaced in parochial matters such as governorship of the local Crammer School, the appointment of a General Hospital physician and in national questions like the repeal of the Corn Laws.

The subject is explored in three ways: by examining narrative accounts of conflicts arising over such concerns as the payment of church rates; and the provision of education or opposition to pending parliamentary legislation allowing Dissenters to enter the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge; by quantifying the religious belief and political party of those holding privileged positions of power and authority (Magistrates, Court Lect, The Street Commissioners who were responsible for paving, sewering and lighting the town in the absence of a municipal corporation); by analysing polling in the parliamentary elections of this period, particularly those of 1837 and 1841, in order to establish the degree to which religious affiliation was a determinant of voting behaviour end its relationship to the other recognised influencies; socio-economic class , neighbourhood norm, etc.

The results indicated a positive relationship between religious belief and political acts: local privileged positions of power tended to be dominated by members of the Established Church to the exclusion of those dissenting from it. Despite a good correlation between religious belief and voting behaviour in the parliamentary elections , however, this part of the hypothesis could not be proved conclusively owing to the inadequacy of the sources.

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