In Volume 1 of Religion and Public Doctrine in Modern England, Maurice Cowling defined the principles according to which the intellectual history of modern England should be written and argued that the history of Christianity was of primary importance. In this volume, which is self-contained, he makes a further contribution to understanding the role which Christianity has played in modern English thought. The book is unusual in its concentration on argument. Cowling relates Christian argument to secular argument and secular argument to Christian argument, discussing Tractarianism and Ultramontanism in the context of secular humanism and pessimistic illusionlessness, and vice versa. The roles of science and history are discussed. The book is given coherence by the connected ideas of the ubiquity of religion, of literature as an instrument of religious indoctrination, and of the intimacy of the connections between the political, philosophical, literary and religious assumptions that are to be found among the leaders of the English intelligentsia.
"Maurice Cowling ... is arguably among the twentieth century's most accomplished historians." First Things. "With the publication in 2001 of the third and final volume of his immense magnum opus ... Cowling has completed a work of history not only in many ways sui generis, but truly magisterial." First Things