The Origins of Primitive Methodism

The Origins of Primitive Methodism

Sandy Calder


Boydell Press



The Primitive Methodist Connexion's mature social character may have been working-class, but this did not reflect its social origins.
This book shows that while the Primitive Methodist Connexion's mature social character was working-class, this did not reflect its social origins. It was never the church of the working class, the great majority of whose churchgoers went elsewhere: rather it was the church whose commitment to its emotional witness was increasingly incompatible with middle-class pretensions. Sandy Calder shows that the Primitive Methodist Connexion was a religious movement led by a fairly prosperous elite of middle-class preachers and lay officials appealing to a respectable working-class constituency. This reality has been obscured by the movement's self-image as a persecuted community of humble Christians, an image crafted by Hugh Bourne, and accepted by later historians, whether Methodists with a denominational agenda to promote or scholars in search of working-class radicals. Primitive Methodists exaggerated their hardships and deliberately under-played their social status and financial success. Primitive Methodism in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries became the victim of its own founding mythology, because the legend of a community of persecuted outcasts, concealing its actual respectability, deterred potential recruits.

SANDY CALDER graduated with a PhD in Religious Studies from the Open University and has previously worked in the private sector.

An e-book version of this title is available (9781782046202), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.


March 2016
10 black and white illustrations
316 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Studies in Modern British Religious History
ISBN: 9781783270811
Format: Hardback
Boydell Press
BISAC REL044000, HIS037060
Share on Facebook   Share on Twitter   Pin it   Share by Email

Table of Contents

The Historiography Problem
The Sources Problem
The Bourne Problem
A Third-Party View of Early Primitive Methodism
The Baptismal Registers
The 1851 Religious Census
The PM Chapel
The Character of the Leadership
Conclusions and a Reinterpretation
Appendix A


A signal scholarly achievement which will be the indispensable starting-point for future studies. JOURNAL OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY

This book throws down an important challenge to some of the uncritically accepted assumptions which have smothered the study of Methodism for too long. HISTORY

An important contribution to the history of British Methodism. REVUE D'HISTOIRE ECCLESIASTIQUE

A significant and challenging contribution. BULLETIN OF THE METHODIST HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF IRELAND

A welcome and stimulating addition to the current discussion about Primitive Methodism. Here is an immensely detailed examination of the Bourne manuscript material in particular and Calder's analysis must be taken seriously. METHODIST RECORDER

Also in Series