Evangelicalism and Scandal in Victorian England: The case of the pearsall smiths

M. J D Roberts*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Contemporary, sociology-assisted, enthusiasm for the study of 'scandal' has opened a rich field of possibilities for historians of Victorian England including historians of Victorian religious thought and practice. While exploration of this field has so far focused on the scandals of the culturally marginalized (notably Roman Catholics), the role of scandal in shaping mainstream Protestant evangelical culture in an age of 'media-generated celebrity' remains largely unmapped. This article aims to demonstrate the power of scandal to shape the culture of the Victorian Protestant mainstream by an investigation and appraisal of the unfolding, contemporary interpretation, management, and ultimate resolution of a scandal which enveloped the American evangelist couple, Robert and Hannah Pearsall Smith, on their visits to England between 1873 and 1875. The outcome of these events, it is argued, was a triumph for those opposed to the 'Americanization' of English religious practice and cultural values, especially values linked to the regulation of sexual desire.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)437-457
Number of pages21
Issue number320
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2010


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