Booth's Army: The Salvation Army in Nineteenth Century Britain


  • Joel T. Schaefer Wichita State University


Salvation Army, William Booth, Catherine Booth, John Wesley, Church of England, social outreach program, women's rights movement


The religious landscape of nineteenth-century Great Britain was one that reflected the social and economic diversity and changes occurring. As the Church of England dominated the lives of most of Britain's populous at the opening of the century, its influence would be challenged by numerous missionary and evangelical groups in the latter half of the century. In 1851, the British Government conducted a religious census for the first (and last) time which examined church attendance. The Census of Religious Worship recorded where public worship occurred, how often they met, and the number of people involved in the parish. The attendance figures for England and Wales were: Church of England, 5,292,551; main Nonconformist Churches, 4,536,264; Roman Catholics, 383,000. The total population of England and Wales was 17,927,609. Over 34,000 places of worship were registered and millions of religious pamphlets were distributed and yet over five million people stayed away from the church census when it was given on March 30, 1851.1 One of the many conclusions that these statistics reveal, or fail to reveal, was the changing social structure of British society. The social make-up of society became more subtle as a new industrial working class and a new commercial and industrial bourgeoisie emerged. With the creation of entirely new industrial communities, new religious sects formed and new tactics were employed to attempt to reach out to the urban poor. The Church of England continued its focus on the upper and middle class parishioners, neglecting the growing urban populace. In a meager attempt to address the lower classes the Church set out to create a Christian social climate which would by 'osmosis' influence the lives of the workers. This trickle-down religious philosophy of the Church never took root with the working classes of Britain, though.