What part did religion play in late eighteenth— and early nineteenth-century Britain? How did the local situation differ from the national picture? What was the role of women in society and the church? And how did the emerging centers of industrial activity interact with the places in which they sprung up? These are wide questions, but they can be seen in microcosm in one small area of the English midlands: the parish of Madeley, Shropshire, in which was the birthplace of the industrial revolution, Coalbrookdale. Here, the evangelical Methodist clergyman John Fletcher ministered between 1760 and 1785, among a population including Catholics and Quakers as well people indifferent to religion. Then, for nearly sixty years after his death, two women, Fletcher's widow and later her protege, had virtual charge of the parish, which became one of the last examples of Methodism remaining within the Church of England.
Through examining this specific locality, these essays engage particularly with areas of broader significance, including: Methodism's roots and growth in relation to the Church of England, religion and gender in eighteenth-century Britain, and religion and emerging industrial society. The last decade has seen substantial growth in studies of John and Mary Fletcher, early Methodism, and its relationship to the Church of England. Religion, Gender, and Industry offers a contribution to this developing area of research. The groundbreaking essays in this volume are written by an international group of scholars and present the latest research in this field.
The contributions in this volume, originally presented at a conference in Shropshire in 2009, address these themes from multidisciplinary perspectives, including history, theology, gender studies, and industry. In addition to furthering knowledge of Madeley parish and its relation to larger themes in eighteenth-century Britain, the impact of the Fletchers in nineteenth-century American Methodism is examined.