The Nonconformist Contribution to
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The Nonconformist Contribution to book
IF ANYONE THINKS that the title of this series of lectures seems demure, the presumptuous title of this first one ought to disabuse him. And I should like to explain. . . . Thirty-six years ago, when I came up to this university as a freshman from the West Riding, I was happy to join the Robert Hall Society, which I am glad to know still flourishes (or at any rate persists) as the association for Baptists in the university. At the same time I was - and not reluctantly either, but with enthusiasm – studying for the English Tripos. How did those two allegiances come together, to define the sort of Englishman that I was, or wanted to be? This wasn't a question which at that time agitated me much, chiefly because my Baptist allegiance was already by then lukewarm. Over the years, however, the question has interested me a good deal, and in these lectures I want to sketch the answer that I have found to it. It is not a straightforward answer, but nuanced and elusive; so much so, that I've decided the only practical way of conveying it is by sketching the fortunes of English Dissent over the last 280 years.