Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Professor William Gibson becomes visiting fellowship at Yale University

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Professor William Gibson was recently appointed to a visiting fellowship by Yale University. His fellowship enables him to use archives and manuscripts in the Yale collections in his editorial work for the new Oxford Handbook on the Modern British Sermon 1689-1901, to be published by Oxford University Press. Professor Gibson's work suggests that while people today have written off sermons as dull, in the past they were extremely popular and widely read. Professor Gibson says "sermons were certainly deciding factors in a number of eighteenth century elections and the preoccupation with reading them even shut down the stock exchange for two days in 1716. Sermons were a far more important element in printing than novels until the middle of the nineteenth century, and huge numbers of people wanted to hear the most fashionable preachers. In 1737 George Whitefield preached to a crowd of 80,000 people at Hyde Park -probably the biggest gathering ever in the country. In the nineteenth century Charles Spurgeon the Baptist preacher delivered his sermons in theatres and even at Epsom Race Course because so many wanted to attend. Far from being dull, sermons captured people's imaginations and often thrilled them."