The Greatest Empire on Earth

The largest empire the world has ever seen was doubtlessly the Victorian British Empire.

At the end of the 18th century, after the moral revival brought on by preachers like Witfield and the Wesleys; political reform brought on by William Wilberforce and the Clapam Group; economic reform brought on by the Quakers; England was the world superpower.

The whole of England was decentralized, The Protestant Work Ethic and the Quaker Fair Price brought decent living standards to the common people with health and education for children. Mass Christian revivals emptied the jails and the pubs. The economy boomed after the abolition of slavery 200 years ago. The British economy was in a steep climb and was the British currency from which it has yet to descend.

One hundred years after the aptly named Victoria, England has depressed into what can only be described as a moral free-fall.

One hundred years before these Christian influences of the 17th and 18th century England was not anywhere near this kind of international influence. Struggling with the political upheavals in Europe and the battle for supremacy in the seas and the colonies. England was just another slave-based economy, utterly unaware of the economic power potential packed into the Gospel. Now at the beginning of the 21st century England has closed it’s back on the source of it’s strength. England is now philosophically, politically, socially and economically Atheist … and how are they doing with their new found “freedom”?

Not so good! Here are some jaw dropping facts about England in 2010. They all come from Clifford Hill’s amazingly well researched book: The Wilberforce Connection:

1. “In 1880 the prison population was 10,299 and the total population of England and Wales was 25,708,666; 30 years later the figures for 1910 were: prison population 3,189; total population 35,756,615.

2. “In 1910 the total number of offenses including minor offenses such as drunkenness and disorderly behavior was only 31,000; ten years later the total figure for reported crime was just under 100,000. By the middle of the 20th century it reached 500,000, and by the end of the century the figure was more than ten times that of 1950. The figure for reported crime in the year 2001/2 of notifiable offenses was 5,527,000. The British Crime Survey, which takes account of all crime including those not reported to the police, put the figure in excess of ten million.

3. “The number of first-time marriages continued to rise until 1970 when they peaked at 340,000. By the end of the century they dropped to less than half, at 170,000. By 2002 they had fallen to 150,200. In 2001the total number of marriages, including remarriages, in England and Wales was 249,227. This was the lowest annual number of marriages recorded in England and Wales since 1897 despite the huge increase in population since that time.

4. “Births outside of marriage:

1870: 5%

1901: 4%

1941: 6%

1971: 8%

1981: 11%

1991: 30%

2001: 40%

5. “A 2001 survey of thirteen- to fifteen-year-old schoolchildren revealed that 17% of them were sexually active although only one-third of parents of sexually active girls were aware that their daughters were no longer virgins…

A quarter of sexually active thirteen-year-old boys and girls claimed to have had four or more sexual partners.

6. “During the four years from 1995 to 1999, STI’s [Sexually Transmitted Infections] in boys doubled and in girls trebled. In the same period among girls 16- to 19-years-old there was a 27% annual rise in chlamydia…

7. “Of particular concern to the health authorities was the staggering rise among teenage boys in homosexually acquired sexually transmitted diseases. These showed a 3000% increase between 1996 and 2002 when schools’ sex education advocated same-sex experiment.

So much for freedom!

Maybe what they thought was freedom was just free.

5 thoughts on “The Greatest Empire on Earth”

  1. Fascinating, and some terrifying statistics. I agree that the Christian decline of the Uk (and the US) is leading to their downfall. However, while on the grounds of my faith I disagree with sex outside of marriage and birth outside of wedlock, as well as homosexuality, the statistics do not show us the affect that these have on society. We all know that fewer criminals means a better society but what affect has it had on the population that all these children are (hetero and homo) sexually active? In what way is society different now that all these children are being born out of wedlock and all these people are getting divorced, or not married at all?

  2. Have you investigated the concept of emergence? It is congruent with your emphasis on relationality, as new and unexpected and unpredictable characteristics “emerge” out of parts in relationship to each other. Enjoy!


  3. Hi Ed, Thanks. Yes I have looked at emergence in two senses:

    1. In the sense of the “Emergent Church” movement, which is really just a term. I don’t think you’re referring to it in your comment, but it has bearing in terms of church structure, management and government.

    2. In the sense of predictability. Relationships are notoriously unpredictable. Us Westerners don’t like that. We like patterns and mathematics and measurable stuff. Outcomes of relationships emerge in unpredictable ways. Partly because humans are complex, partly because there are so many of us, and partly because we make very little sensible decisions.

    In a very redeeming way though, we have in the Bible, a very relational book. It describes who happened much better than it describes what happened. And it describes what happened very well! The Hebrew language and culture, and the Bible are miracles that emerged out of relationally.

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