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"Through the windows of a Baptist Meeting House": Religion, politics and the Nonconformist Conscience in the life of Sir George White, M.P.

By Barry M. Doyle


With the compilation of the New Dictionary of National Biography, under the\ud general editorship of Colin Matthew, the contributions of many more of the Free\ud Church men and women who helped shape nineteenth and twentieth-century Britain\ud will be acknowledged. Among the debutants in the revised canon of great Britons\ud will be Sir George White MP, 1 the man described by the British Weekly as the\ud 'foremost lay leader of English Nonconformity in our generation' ,2 yet a politician\ud largely ignored by historians of Edwardian Britain.3 This is a significant oversight,\ud for White featured prominently in Free-Church politics in the early twentieth\ud century, chairing the Nonconformist Committee in the House of Commons and\ud acting as a bridge between old-style dissenting Radicalism and the new(er)\ud Liberalism of practical politicians like Lloyd George.4 Although 'plain and modest'\ud with 'no pretentions to brilliance', White reached the top in business, politics and\ud the Baptist denomination through the classic Victorian virtues of hard work,\ud dedication and devotion,S his success resting, in part, on his power as a speaker\ud with 'the enviable faculty granted to the best speakers of saying, and thinking clearly\ud and strongly while he is on his feet,.6 This paper, which is based primarily on\ud press reports of his life and death, will outline White's achievements in religion,\ud business and politics, illustrating the way these elements interacted, and looking, in\ud particular, at the three areas in which religion most obviously influenced his political\ud views: class relations, education and temperance

Topics: DA
Publisher: Baptist Historical Society
Year: 1996
OAI identifier:

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  1. (1912). 171pp, £8-95 including p&p from author, The New Rectory, 51 High Street,
  2. Baptist Members of Parliament in the Twentieth Century', doi
  3. (1912). Cox's County Mo's Mo: Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire,
  4. (1886). History of the Nornich Young Men's Christian Association,
  5. Liberalism and Dissent p.244.
  6. Nonconformist Conscience, doi
  7. p.118; doi
  8. (1912). p.165, referring to a speech in Croydon.
  9. (1912). p.274; Cooper, op.cit. p.484;
  10. (1912). quoting White in his funeral address,
  11. (1957). The Baptists in Norfolk,
  12. The Drink Traffic and its relation to work and wages,
  13. (1972). The Education Bill of 1906 and the decline of political Nonconformity', doi
  14. The private cemetery at Rosary Road, Thorpe, Norwich, opened in the early nineteenth century by a group of wealthy nonconformists, and the main burial ground for the city's Free Church elite for the next one hundred years.

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