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Freedom and Order: History, Politics and the English Bible [Hardcover]

Nick Spencer
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
Price: 15.75 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

12 May 2011
2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James' Bible and will see a great deal of celebration and comment about the impact of the Bible on British culture. Much of the story is well-known, such as the Bible's seminal influence on British language and literature, but one aspect - the influence of the Bible on English politics - is largely unknown or ignored. Moreover, when it is not ignored, the Bible's influence on politics is treated as that from which we have escaped, in order that we may enjoy our current freedoms, rather than something that contributed positively to political thought or history.This is misleading. FREEDOM AND ORDER seeks to inform people of the Bible's critical and positive influence on politics in Britain throughout modern history.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton (12 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340996234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340996232
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 601,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Nick Spencer ranges stylishly over English history from Saint Augustine's landing in Kent to Saint Tony Blair and beyond, richly documenting how this realm of England was a biblically based culture even before the realm of England was invented. Clarity and learning lightly worn make this book stand out from the herd in this year celebrating King James's contribution to biblical translation.' (Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church, University of Oxford)

For anyone freshly curious to understand that jagged and sometimes bloodstained terrain between religion and politics, Church and State in these islands, this is the book for you. Nick Spencer is an ace historical cartographer of that landscape; a guide of fluency and judgement for those who wish to cross it from the seventh century to the present day. (Lord Peter Hennessy, Attlee Professor of Contemporary British History, Queen Mary, University of London.)

In a book that somehow manages to be both sweeping and concise, Nick Spencer demonstrates just how much the political culture of Britain owes to that massive seedbed of ideas, the Bible. (Tom Holland, historian and author of Rubicon)

Book Description

The Bible's influence on British politics has been as immense as it has been ignored, and this book uses the unique opportunity of the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James' Bible to outline and celebrate that influence.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A timely read 5 Aug 2011
Of the multitude of books written to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James' version of the Bible I found `Freedom and order' the most satisfying and relevant to the modern world. Nick Spencer has condensed his thoroughly researched material into a coherent narrative which both kept my interest, and gave a real understanding of the impact of the English Bible on the political development of English speaking societies. In particular it gave a fascinating insight into the centrality of the Bible to the development of the United States of America from the insignificant frontier society of the Pilgrim Fathers to the world superpower we know today. I particularly liked the key quotations at the head of each chapter. Freedom and Order: History, Politics and the English Bible
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good and challenging read 26 Aug 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An excellent and thought provoking book that has some really good historical context to challenge your thinking about the bible and the effect it has had on society. Thoroughly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The tangled web that faith and politics weave 11 July 2014
By Jeremy Bevan TOP 500 REVIEWER
The relationship between faith and politics in contemporary Britain is undeniably ‘difficult’. But it was not always so. Nick Spencer’s fascinating book charts their complex relationship from Saxon times. Throughout, he argues, the Bible has been key, variously prayed in aid of greater political freedoms (with Acts 5:29 a core text) and seen as a buttress for order (drawing on Romans 13:1). While bishop Alcuin of York could remind king Aethelred ‘whether you will or not, you must have him [God] as judge’, the spiritual and temporal powers effectively reinforced each other in seeking to lead the Anglo-Saxon people to greater godliness, until pope Gregory VII’s insistence on the primacy of the spiritual ushered in a period of both profound political disequilibrium and creative political thought. Kings resisted the rule of an over-mighty church, and in reaction, churchmen like Becket, Langton and John of Salisbury developed theories of resistance to tyrants that were to flower more fully in the 16th and 17th centuries, when Ponet and Knox elaborated bolder ideas about how far Protestant resistance to the supposedly 'divine right' of monarchs to rule (and especially that of Catholic queen Mary) could go.

In theory, the Reformation ushered in an age where kings (or magistrates) had no right to tell the people what to believe. But Tyndale’s vision of every plough boy a theologian, Bible in hand, went hand-in-hand with a firm belief that ‘the powers that be’ acted as a brake on civil chaos, especially religiously-fomented civil chaos. Those in authority had always feared that this lurked in the wings, whether in the guise of the Peasants’ Revolt, the Diggers and Levellers, or that most convenient of bogeyman, the ‘Jacobin’ groups in the aftermath of the French Revolution.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Informative and challenging but a hard read 10 Aug 2012
By Richard
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A valuable book for those trying to engage with statutory bodies from a Christian perspective which is where I come from. It gives a historical perspective and context for the relationships we are trying to develop. I am not a historian however and I found that at times I was getting bogged down in detail and lost as the narrative seemed to jump back and forth. I would love there to be and edited version. Still I think it worth the effort, but the idea of reading it in three days as one of the other reviewers wrote blows me away!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Readable, credible and ambitious. 8 Dec 2011
By Sally
This is one of my books of 2011- I read it in three days and felt better informed about more than just politics and religion by the end. Considering the depth of research and breadth of information it contains, it is very easy to digest and completely compelling. Perhaps the most interesting section comes at the very end, when Spencer, having made a historical case for the bible as foundational for British politics, poses a normative question. With most of the population not only not believing, but no knowing, the bible, can our political system remain committed to the virtues drawn from it? And if not, where is the alternative foundation?
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