Monday, 26 September 2011

CHF November Conference: Beyond 1611

The next CHF day conference will be held at St Peter's Vere Street on Saturday 12th November. Our subject is 'Beyond 1611: How the Bible Shaped British Culture'.

The quatercentenary of the King James Bible has focussed largely on the creation of this famous translation. But in recent years, historians and literary scholars have been making exciting new discoveries about the impact of the English Bible on British political and literary culture. This conference showcases some of this new research. The four lectures by experts in the field tell the story of how the Bible captured the British imagination from the seventeenth-century revolutions to the Victorians and beyond. A closing roundtable discussion will consider what contemporary Christians can learn from the Bible’s reception history.

10:30: Tea and Coffee
10:50 Welcome from John Coffey

11.00: Nick Spencer (Research Director, Theos): The Political Bible
12.00: Prof John Coffey (University of Leicester): The Abolitionist Bible

1.00-2.00 Lunch

2.00: Dr Jon Roberts (University of Liverpool): The Romantic Bible
3.00: Dr Mark Knight (University of Roehampton): The Victorian Bible

4.00-4.45: Roundtable: The Use and Abuse of the English Bible

The conference fee is £7.50 (or £5 for students, retired, non-salaried)
To book a place, please email John Coffey at or write to him at School of Historical Studies, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH. Cheques should be made payable to 'Christianity and History Forum', though it is possible to pay on the day.

Sir Herbert Butterfield

Readers of this blog will no doubt know of Herbert Butterfield's lectures on Christianity and History, originally published in 1949. The Cambridge professor (and Methodist lay preacher) has been the subject of a number of studies, including C.T. McIntire's Herbert Butterfield: Historian as Dissenter (2004), but his public image will never look quite the same after Michael Bentley's new work, The Life and Thought of Herbert Butterfield (CUP, 2011). Bentley has unearthed a set of private letters written by the historian to a woman with whom he had a passionate affair in the mid-1930s. The biographer resists the temptation to sensationalise his subject, and offers a sympathetic account of his religious and historical thought. By contrast, Stefan Collini's review in the TLS (19 and 26 August 2011) is kinder to Butterfield's adultery than to his providentialism.

As Collini points out, Butterfield's reputation as an historian has been in sharp decline. His Christian readership has also shrunk, certainly when set aside the immense popularity of his contemporary, C.S. Lewis. Lewis's childlike sense of wonder enjoys a greater appeal than Butterfield's world-weary cynicism. Yet Bentley makes the case for revisiting Butterfield's thought, for taking it seriously, and he deserves a fair hearing.