The Church of England, Print Networks, and the Book of Common Prayer in Atlantic Canada, c. 1750-c.1830

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter



Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBritish Colonisation in Atlantic Canada, 1700-1930: A Reappraisal
Place of PublicationEdinburgh
PublisherEdinburgh University Press
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Feb 2019
Publication type

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


From the middle of the eighteenth century to the 1830s, the Church of England dramatically increased its overseas activities and imperial reach. This burst of Church extension, much of which was made possible by government funding, was particularly noticeable in Nova Scotia and, to varying extents, in other parts of Atlantic Canada. A major preoccupation of those who helped plant the Church in unfamiliar colonial territories was how a sense of unity and common identity could be maintained across what was a growing Church and an increasingly diverse and scattered Anglican world. This problem was particularly acute in Atlantic Canada, a region where settlement was scattered and varied, resident bishops and clergymen were always few, and formal public worship a rarity. This chapter builds on recent work which has emphasised the importance of texts, and print networks, in spreading and maintaining Anglicanism overseas. Yet rather than tell a familiar story of Anglican communication, connection and imagined community, this chapter examines how Anglican print literature reflected the peculiarity and diversity of the Atlantic Canada region. The provision of religious literature such as the Book of Common Prayer were intended to collapse distances and spread a sense of common identity; in reality, congregations – many of which were not served by ordained ministers – could adapt and modify texts to reflect local needs, tastes and environments. The use and adaption of Anglican religious texts is a reminder of the enduring appeal and popularity of an institution, the Church of England, which scholars of Atlantic Canada have often dismissed as an awkward and reactionary presence.