Change and Decay: Primitive Methodism from late Victorian Years to World War 1 


After a brief look at the character of Primitive Methodism in its early period, the book first explores the causes and progress of the loss of faith in Victorian Britain; the later chapters focus on changes within Primitive Methodism: its beliefs, its ethos, and its numerical decline.  A primary purpose of the book is to rediscover the voices of those who were grieved at the modifications in theology but whose words and woes are hard to discover as they tend to be mentioned, if at all, only briefly and rather dismissively in subsequent writings. The final, very brief chapter, casts a glance beyond the close of this study (the end of World War 1) towards what will, it is hoped, be the subject of a third volume: the question of whether, and if so how, Primitive Methodism survived the end of its separate existence in 1932

Chapter 1 – Primitive Methodism before the Changes
Chapter 2 – The Victorian Background of Change
Chapter 3 – Changes in Primitive Methodism:
the Content of Theology
Chapter 4 – Changes in Primitive Methodism: the Exponents of Theology
Chapter 5 –Changes in Primitive Methodism:
Ethos, Numbers, Disquiet
Chapter 6 – Reactions to the new Teachings
Chapter 7 – The Death of Primitive Methodism?


There has been a gap in our knowledge of Primitive Methodist theology  in the later period of the movement.  David Young has now produced a detailed and informative account, concluding that there was far more drastic theological change than has been supposed but also (and this is where the author’s sympathies lie) that there was a great deal of grassroots doctrinal conservatism.
David Bebbington, Professor of History, Universtity of Stirling

David Young’s study of late nineteenth-century Primitive Methodism breaks new ground in exploring the nature and impact of changes in the denomination. His detailed research and trenchant opinions will stimulate further work on an important subject.
Rev Dr Martin Wellings, Superintendent Minister, Oxford Methodist Circuit

David Young has undertaken very extensive study of primary sources in Primitive Methodism. He has produced a book which offers detailed analysis of a range of theological issues within the movement Those interested in Primitive Methodist life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century period will find that Young’s work probes areas illuminatingly that have not previously received this kind of coverage.
– Dr Ian Randall, FRHistS, Senior Research Fellow, Spurgeon’s College, London

The sad decline in theological certainty in the churches is expertly documented in David Young’s work. We who remain need to take a care not to perpetuate the myth that you have can have a strong and certain Christian witness while extolling doubt in the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ and other core essentials. We are called to praise our God and to lift the people to faith in Christ’s finished work! God has spoken, and we can understand what He has said, to His eternal praise and glory! The flame of early Primitive Methodism still burns, let us not hide it under a bushel, or pretend there is any other way. There isn’t, and David Young’s book shows what happens when churches attempt to stand in judgement over God. Decline and fall.
Pastor Richard White-Watts, Independent Primitive Methodist Chapel, Lowdham

Publishing Details

Publisher: Tentmaker Publications (

ISBN: 978-1-911005-08-7