Meek Imperialists: Humility In 17th Century England -- By: Kari Konkola

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 28:1 (Spring 2007)
Article: Meek Imperialists: Humility In 17th Century England
Author: Kari Konkola


Meek Imperialists: Humility In 17th Century England

Kari Konkola**

** Kari Konkola is currently an independent scholar living in Madison, Wisconsin. He can be reached at konkola.kari@sbcglobal.net.

Humility is the great ornament and jewel of Christian Religion, that whereby it is distinguished from all the wisdom of the word; [humility] not having been taught by the wise men of the Gentiles, but first put into a discipline, and made part of religion by our Lord Jesus Christ, who propounded himself imitable by his disciples so signally in nothing as in the twin sisters of meekness and humility. “Learn from me, for I am meek and humble, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”1

The above words come from a significant source: Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667) was a Bishop, Doctor in Divinity, Chaplain in Ordinary to King Charles II and one of the most popular religious authors in seventeenth-century England.2 Taylor’s position and influence make it very probable that the view of humility as the main teaching of Christ and as the distinctive characteristic of Christianity was a fully accepted part of English Protestantism. The idea was also widely known, because the quotation comes from Taylor’s Holy Living, a manual for virtuous life printed in 21 known editions between 1650 and 1700—i.e., about 60,000 copies of this book/paragraph circulated in England.3

The central place of humility in early modern English Protestantism highlights a major change in religion, because this virtue has almost totally disappeared from modern Christianity.4 Historians have overlooked the transformation in religion, and this

* I wish to thank Yi-Fu Tuan, Sean Perrone, James Steadman, and Andy Devine for their helpful suggestions and comments to earlier versions of this paper. A summary of this article has been published as part of Kari Konkola, “Have We Lost Humility?” Humanitas 18/1&2 (2005): 198-205. The Humanitas article can be downloaded from: http://www.nhinet.org/18–1&2.htm.

study begins to rectify the oversight by describing what being humble meant in 17th century England. Early modern investigations of humility were not limited to religion, and the latter parts of the study describe the effects humility was believed to have on the individual and on society.

The method used in this study is bibliometric analysis, which consists of identifying the most popular book...

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