Philosophy, Dissent and Nonconformity: 1689-1920

By Alan P.F. Sell

A groundbreaking investigation of philosophy as an academic subject as taught in Dissenting academies and Nonconformist colleges between 1689 and 1920.

ISBN: 9780227679777


Philosophy, Dissent and Nonconformity forms part of the Doctrine and Devotion trilogy. The book represents the first attempt to tell the story of those who taught and wrote philosophy outside the Anglican-Oxbridge Academy.

Dr. Sell investigates the place given to philosophy in Dissenting academies and Nonconformist colleges between 1689 and 1920. During this time there were over one hundred such academies and colleges. The earliest Dissenting academy tutors and Nonconformist college teachers lived dangerously but they were seriously concerned with familiarising their students with all fields of philosophy such as logic, metaphysics, ethics and theology. The more philosophically talented eighteenth-century tutors produced books and articles in the field. In particular, the treatment of moral philosophy has been a prominent concern of a number of Dissenting philosophers.

The author examines the variety and range of philosophical interests espoused by Dissenters and Nonconformists in turn. The beliefs and views held by the philosophers are also examined in detail. This is both an important and an engaging book on a fascinating subject, and will appeal to those interested in nonconformist history and the history of philosophy in academic institutions.

Additional information

Dimensions234 × 156 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Alan P.F. Sell, of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and the University of Chester, is a philosopher-theologian and ecumenist with strong interests in the history of Christian thought. He has held ecclesiastical appointments in England and Geneva, and academic posts in England, Canada and Wales. He publishes widely, and lectures at home and abroad. His works include Philosophy, Dissent and Nonconformity (James Clarke & Co Ltd, 2003), Christ and Controversy (2012), Philosophy, History, and Theology (2012), Confessing the Faith Yesterday and Today (James Clarke & Co Ltd, 2013), and The Theological Education of the Ministry (2013).



1. Introduction
2. Philosophy and Philosophers: The Eighteenth Century
3. The Eighteenth-Century Dissenters’ Contribution to Moral Philosophy
4. Philosophy and Philosophers: 1800-1920
5. Nonconformist Contributions to Ethics and Apologetics: 1800-1920
6. Epilogue

Index of Academies, Colleges and Universities
Index of Persons
Select Index of Subjects


Endorsements and Reviews

This is a serious work and deserves to be read carefully. The author offers a survey of a rarely considered but rewarding subject.
Congregational History Circle Magazine

… with its extensive bibliography and indices of colleges and personnel, his book provides a valuable source for all those whose interest lies within this area of intellectual history.
Journal of Ecclesiatical History

This is clearly a pioneering work as an investigation of the contribution of Dissent and Nonconformity to Philosophy. All will agree that what Professor Sell calls ‘a modest memorial’ is a welcome and fitting tribute to the notable contribution of Dissenting tradition to theological education and the history of philosophy.
United Reformed Church History Society

Drawing on an unparalleled knowledge of often obscure writers and teachers (and with very extensive footnotes), the author paints an impressionistic picture of scholars struggling to connect the revealed truths of the Christian faith with wider canons of reason. There are frequent micro-studies of specific authors and academies from the highly traditional to the scarcely orthodox, which means that this work is unlikely to be surpassed as the standard text in the subject. … The book stands as a fitting tribute to the seriousness with which the quest for God blended with the quest for truth.
The Expository Times

There is much for the researcher who wants to delve into the philosophical and ethical ideas that the leading figures of nonconformity were taught in their youth as students. This work is a unique contribution and a valuable comparative study.
Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society

Given the weakened state of contemporary Nonconformity, it has become a matter of some urgency that its story is recorded before it is lost. In this task, Professor Sell has excelled and with this book he has added a further significant volume to Nonconformist historiography.
Irish Theological Quarterly

The book is sure to appeal to those interested in the history of education in Britain as well as to those interested in the development of British philosophy. The work is scholarly and the story told with a sympathy and a wit that mantains interest throughout.
Journal of Welsh Religious History