University of Wollongong Historical Journal

Article Title

Religion and the industrial revolution: an analysis of E P Thompson's interpretation of Methodism


The fiery religion of John Wesley has inflamed passionate opposition almost from its inception in 1738, when, at a meeting of a religious society in London, he felt his heart 'strangely warmed'. Eighteen Century critics fastened on two aspects of the movement: its indecorous 'enthusiasm' (irrational zeal verging on fanaticism) and its capacity to undermine lawfully established authorities in the Church and long-sanctioned privileges in Society. The Duchess of Buckingham's reaction to Metthodist preachers now finds its way into most studies of Methodism: '... their doctrines are most repulsive and strongly tinctured with impertinence and disrespect towards their Superiors, in perpetually endeavouring to level all ranks and to do away with all distinctions ... It is monstrous to be told you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the earth.