Religion and Change in Modern Britain

Religion and Change in Modern Britain, edited by Linda Woodhead and Rebecca Catto, was published by Routledge on 14 February 2012 (ISBN 978-0-415-57580-5 hardback, £80.00 and ISBN 978-0-415-57581-2 paperback, £27.99). It is a major reappraisal of religious change in Britain since 1945, incorporating some of the results of new research commissioned for the AHRC/ESRC ‘Religion and Society Programme’, which provided a large project grant as core funding for BRIN.

The volume is a quasi-textbook of 408 pages comprising twelve chapters and seven case-studies, preceded by a substantial introduction by Woodhead, which exemplifies a recurring theme that the religious and the secular cannot be understood in isolation, and that neither secularization nor desecularization provide adequate frameworks for theorizing a contemporary religious scene beset by diversity, complexity, contradiction, and conflict. There are also thirty plates and twenty-two text boxes with specific detail. A promised companion website does not yet appear to be live. A detailed contents list is available at:

An impressively large team of thirty-eight scholars has been assembled to write the book, so it will be readily appreciated that most contributions are multi-authored. They have been disproportionately drawn from social science and religious studies departments, which will probably provide the main market for the work. Very few historians are in the line-up (Callum Brown and John Wolffe being their principal representatives), despite the ostensibly historical scope of the work, and some may feel that genuinely historical insights are lacking from certain essays. Topical coverage is wide but, inevitably, cannot be truly comprehensive.

The overall approach is to offer commentaries based on syntheses of the relevant primary and secondary literature (with explanations of key terms, suggestions for further reading, and references) combined, where appropriate, with original research. With some exceptions (such as content analysis of religion in the media), the latter tends to be mainly qualitative or theoretical. Indeed, while summary statistics (from the Churches, the 2001 census, sample surveys, and so forth) inevitably inform several of the chapters, there is no systematic treatment of them. This is not a heavily quantitative book; in fact, there are only nine tables, mostly supporting the chapter on non-Christian faiths. It is perhaps surprising that, in a work clearly aimed at a student readership, no appendix of key data has been included. Nevertheless, BRIN users will still find the volume invaluable and thought-provoking background reading.


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