Sunday, 31 August 2014

The McCulloch Manuscript

I recently finished reading The McCulloch Examinations of the Cambuslang Revival, edited by Keith Beebe. This is a two-volume critical edition of a manuscript originally transcribed by the parish minister of Cambuslang, William McCulloch, who interviewed 109 people that had reportedly experienced conversion during revivals in his parish during the summer of 1742.

While scholars are generally familiar with the Great Awakening in America, very few people know that significant revivals took place at roughly the same time in England, Germany, the Netherlands, Scotland, and Wales. In Scotland, the largest revival occurred at Cambuslang and the surrounding western region in 1742. Although the parish of Cambuslang consisted of only about 1,000 people, the revival there drew estimated crowds of 30,000 to 50,000 during its two communion services in July and August at a time when the nearby town of Glasgow had some 17,000 residents. McCulloch intended to publish his interviews, but for various reasons, never did. Instead, the two-volume manuscript remained with him until his death in 1771, when it was passed down through the family to his granddaughter Janet Coutts, who eventually donated it to the New College Library at Edinburgh in May 1844.

Beebe has done an important service for scholars interested in eighteenth-century transatlantic revivals, and Scottish evangelicalism in particular. Until now, scholars wanting to learn about the Cambuslang revival had to rely on secondary sources like Arthur Fawcett's often cited Cambuslang Revival, and published essays by T. C. Smout, Ned Landsman, and other historians. With the publication of The McCulloch Examinations of the Cambuslang Revival, scholars can now consult the heavily annotated conversion narratives of each person interviewed as well as the editorial additions and deletions made by McCulloch and four other ministers.

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