Conceptions of English political parties in the early eighteenth century are of particular interest to historians focusing on modernisation of political thought. However, considering the early parties as purely political entails a risk of misinterpretation. Whereas secular languages of politics have received attention in previous research, this book emphasises the importance of studying the role of religious discourse and discusses the use of religious terminology for conceptualising political pluralism. By taking concepts as units of analysis and reconstructing a variety of experiences of political change, the book applies overlooked methods of the continental history of concepts to English sources. Pasi Ihalainen's book demonstrates that political pluralism was generally conceptualised through terminology derived from the traditionally dominant religious discourse. The religious terminology of schism, sect, party, faction, fanaticism, moderation, and freethinking, for instance, contributed to continuity in critical attitudes towards political parties. Significant shifts also occurred in the application of religious terminology of pluralism. These shifts include the gradual secularisation of the vocabularies of the political and of party. There also occurred a decline in the frequency of religious terms, as politics and religion became understood as separate, though analogous, spheres. Terminologies of religious and political pluralism became more distinct, which facilitated the expression of more positive attitudes towards political pluralism. Religious idioms did not, however, suddenly lose relevance in political argumentation. In a basically religious political culture, outwardly religious expressions continued to enable contemporaries to conceptualise their experiences of changing politics; one of these changes was a gradually growing recognition of political pluralism.
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