Dr Matthew Grimley

Featured Publication

Citizenship, Community, and the Church of England Liberal Anglican Theories of the State Between the Wars (Oxford Historical Monographs, 2004).

Citizenship, Community, and the Church of England Liberal Anglican Theories of the State Between the Wars (Oxford Historical Monographs)

This book traces the influence of Anglican writers on the political thought of inter-war Britain, and argues that religion continued to exert a powerful influence on political ideas and allegiances in the 1920s and 1930s. It counters the prevailing assumption of historians that inter-war political thought was primarily secular in content, by showing how Anglicans like Archbishop William Temple made an active contribution to ideas of community and the welfare state (a term which Temple himself invented). Liberal Anglican ideas of citizenship, community and the nation continued to be central to political thought and debate in the first half of the 20th century. 

Grimley traces how Temple and his colleagues developed and changed their ideas on community and the state in response to events like the First World War, the General Strike and the Great Depression. For Temple, and political philosophers like A. D. Lindsay and Ernest Barker, the priority was to find a rhetoric of community which could unite the nation against class consciousness, poverty, and the threat of Hitler. Their idea of a Christian national community was central to the articulation of ideas of 'Englishness' in inter-war Britain, but this Anglican contribution has been almost completely overlooked in recent debate on twentieth-century national identity. 
Grimley also looks at rival Anglican political theories put forward by conservatives such as Bishop Hensley Henson and Ralph Inge, dean of St Paul's. Drawing extensively on Henson's private diaries, it uncovers the debates which went on within the Church at the time of the General Strike and the 1927-8 Prayer Book crisis. 
The book uncovers an important and neglected seam of popular political thought, and offers a new evaluation of the religious, political and cultural identity of Britain before the Second World War. 

'The Fall and Rise of Chucrh and State? Religious History, Politics and the State in Britaioin, 1961-2011', in Studies in Church History: The Church on its Past, ed. by Peter Clarke and Charlotte Methuen (Woodridge, 2013), 491-512.

Studies in Church History

The theme of this volume, The Church on its Past, was chosen to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Ecclesiastical History Society. Under the Presidency of Professor Sarah Foot, this conference brought together leading scholars, among them Diarmaid MacCulloch, David Bebbington, Claudia Rapp and Matthew Grimley, to reflect on developments within the discipline of Church History in the fifty years since the Society's foundation in 1961. In this, the resulting volume, a first group of papers surveys ecclesiastical historiography over the last half-century, considering such key themes in Church History as the Reformation. Another group focuses on scholarship exploring the relationship between Church and State in different periods. A third group investigates the uses that the Christian churches have made of the past, especially in order to justify present agendas, and explores how those churches have constructed their own past. Traditionally much Church History has been written from the 'inside'; particular attention is paid to how the Catholic, non-conformist and evangelical churches have interpreted their own histories. The volume ranges widely over historical writing about the Church, from Eusebius and Socrates Scholasticus in late antiquity through Bede and Cardinal Boso in the Middle Ages to Martin Luther, Polydore Vergil, John Bale and Gilbert Burnet in the early modern period, and beyond. Both Protestant and Catholic approaches to writing the history of the Reformation, and of the pre-Reformation Church, are explored, including such aspects as the papacy and crusading. The influence of other approaches is also considered, notably those attentive to feminism and gender, and how far Church Historians have engaged with these. The richness and breadth of this volume's treatment of such a major subject make it essential reading for all students and teachers of and others interested in Church History. 

  • Religion and social reconstruction in Britain, 1939-1951
  • Changing ideas of the state in modern Britain
  • Twentieth-century British and English national identity

My research is on the intersection between politics, religion and intellectual life in 20th century Britain. I began by looking at the inter-war period in my monograph, Citizenship, Community and the Church of England, but have more recently worked on the post-war period, producing a series of articles on race relations, nuclear weapons, the permissive reforms of the 1960s, and anti-permissiveness and Thatcherism. I am now working on a book on religion and social reconstruction in Britain during and after the Second World War. In all my work to date, I have explored the ways in which, in spite of declining religious observance, religious perspectives continued to inform debates about political and social questions in twentieth-century Britain.

  • Church and State: The Church of England and Politics in the Twentieth Century

  • The State, Nationalism and National Identities

  • Anglican Evangelicals and Anti-Permissiveness: The Nationwide Festival of Light 1971-1983

  • The Church of England, Race and Multiculturalism 1962-2012

  • The Fall and Rise of Church and State? Religious History, Politics and the State in Britain 1961-2011

  • Thatcherism, Morality and Religion

  • The Church and the Bomb: Anglicans and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, c1958-1984

  • The Dog that Didn’t Bark: The Failure of Disestablishment since 1927

  • Law, Morality and Secularisation: The Church of England and the Wolfenden Report 1954-1967

  • The Religion of Englishness: Puritanism, Providentialism, and “National Character,” 1918–1945

  • More

Current DPhil Students

  • Beau Woodbury

I would be willing to hear from potential DPhil students regarding: c20 British political, religious and intellectual history

I currently teach:


History of the British Isles VI (1815-1924) History of the British Isles VI (1815-1924)
History of the British Isles VII (1900-) History of the British Isles VII (1900-)
Approaches to History Britain at the Movies Further Subject

Theories of the State

Britain in the Seventies Special Subject
  Disciplines of History