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God and Mrs Thatcher : religion and politics in 1980s Britain

By Liza Filby

Abstract

The core theme of this thesis explores the evolving position of religion in the British public\ud realm in the 1980s. Recent scholarship on modern religious history has sought to relocate\ud Britain's "secularization moment" from the industrialization of the nineteenth century to the\ud social and cultural upheavals of the 1960s. My thesis seeks to add to this debate by examining\ud the way in which the established Church and Christian doctrine continued to play a central\ud role in the politics of the 1980s. More specifically it analyses the conflict between the\ud Conservative party and the once labelled "Tory party at Prayer", the Church of England.\ud Both Church and state during this period were at loggerheads, projecting contrasting\ud visions of the Christian underpinnings of the nation's political values.\ud The first part of this thesis addresses the established Church. It begins with an\ud examination of how the Church defined its role as the "conscience of the nation" in a period\ud of national fragmentation and political polarization. It then goes onto explore how the\ud Anglican leadership, Church activists and associated pressure groups together subjected\ud Thatcherite neo-liberal economics to moral scrutiny and upheld social democratic values as the\ud essence of Christian doctrine. The next chapter analyses how the Church conceptualized\ud Christian citizenship and the problems it encountered when it disseminated this message to its\ud parishioners.\ud The second half of this study focuses on the contribution of Christian thought to the\ud New Right. Firstly, it explores the parallels between political and religious conservatism in this\ud period and the widespread disaffection with liberal Anglicanism, revealing how Parliament\ud became one of the central platforms for the traditionalist Anglican cause. Secondly, it\ud demonstrates how those on the right argued for the Christian basis of economic liberalism and\ud of the moral superiority of capitalism over socialism. The next chapter focuses on the public\ud doctrine of Margaret Thatcher, detailing how she drew upon Christian doctrine, language and\ud imagery to help shape and legitimise her political vision and reinforce her authority as\ud leader. Finally, the epilogue traces the why this Christian-centric dialogue between the\ud Church and Conservative government eventually dissipated and was superseded by a much\ud more fundamental issue in the 1990s as both the ruling elite and the Church were forced to\ud recognise the religious diversity within British society

Topics: BR, DA
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:4527

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Citations

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