Thomas, Denise (2011)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
Presbyterianism in the seventeenth century has often been seen as an alien and unpopular Scottish import, and its ministerial proponents as strident polemicists lacking a committed pastoral approach and doomed to failure in their struggle for further godly reformation.
This thesis reappraises the development and articulation of orthodoxy and Presbyterianism through the experience of Thomas Hall, pastor and schoolmaster of Kings Norton, Worcestershire, a particularly rigid adherent of these views. It argues that Hall’s beliefs were home-grown responses to English religious and political changes in the 1630s, and explores their development and consolidation during the English Revolution. It also investigates ways he promoted his ideology through his pastoral ministry, his teaching, and his evangelical and polemical writings. Though militant against heresy, Hall’s willingness to engage with popular religious beliefs, to experiment with a variety of media and to present Calvinist ideals in a sympathetic and accessible manner, demonstrate a far more positive and flexible approach than historians have generally acknowledged.
Much of the evidence centres on Hall’s unusually large and well-annotated library, and his own publications. This enables a detailed analysis of Hall’s reading practice and activities as a book-collector which were closely integrated with his polemical and religious priorities.
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