Methodists and Business, 1860–1960

Authored by: David J. Jeremy

The Ashgate Research Companion to World Methodism

Print publication date:  February  2013
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409401384
eBook ISBN: 9781315613789
Adobe ISBN: 9781317040996


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Historians’ attention to the role of religion in industry and business has centred on the early Industrial Revolution decades, before 1850. E. P. Thompson’s interpretation of Methodism as a malign capitalist influence on the British working classes has inspired similar studies in the USA, and in both countries research has produced opposing views. 1 1

Mark A. Noll (ed.), God and Mammon: Protestants, Money, and the Market, 1790–1860 (Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press, 2002) has very helpful survey articles.

However, relatively little work has been done on post-1850 developments in either country and for the most part the portrayal of pious entrepreneurs, often struggling with persisting ethical dilemmas, has been unsympathetic. This essay aims to open up the topic. Most attention is paid to the British experience and to those figures who have been most successful, distinguished or otherwise, because they have left most evidence of their activities. Surprisingly, in view of the fact that the vast majority of Methodists have lived in the United States, no systematic collective biographies of Methodists in business in North America have been written although, as will be seen, the religious affiliations of United States business leaders have been identified. Hopefully this essay may stir historians elsewhere to pursue that sort of an approach for an understanding of the interactions between business and faith.

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