The Cupri-Cosmits and the Latitude-Men

  • Robert Crocker
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales d’Histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 185)


‘Latitudinarianism’ is perhaps best described as a pervasive tendency in mid-seventeenth century England, having its roots in intellectual Puritanism, and the growing reaction against Calvinist dogmatism that began in the 1620s and 30s.1 The term ‘Latitude-man’ seems to have been first employed by the Presbyterians in Cambridge in the 1650s against a small but gifted group of anti-Calvinist ‘moderate’ divines, including More and his Platonist friends, who were broadly ‘puritan’ in their theology, but who had rejected the orthodox dogmatism and ecclesiology of their peers.2 The few surviving ‘apologies’ for the doctrines of the ‘Latitude-men’ produced after the Restoration suggest that the term had been taken over by the returning exiles to indicate those ‘gentlemen of broad swallow’, who had survived the interregnum by compromising their doctrine for their safety and comfort. These same apologies also laid siege to certain negative or intolerant aspects of doctrinal Calvinism, appealing directly to the newly reinstated Anglican hierarchy for approval.3 Their differences, though, with the ‘High Church’ restorers of dogmatic orthodoxy amongst the returned exiles — over doctrine, the basis of authority and its exercise in the Church, and other ‘things indifferent’ — were consistently played down besides this main polemical insistence on their status as doctrinally orthodox and obedient, ‘good’ Anglicans, a surviving rump of loyalists from an earlier period.4


Natural Theology Absolute Goodness Divine Grace Vaine Attempt Indelible Character 
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    See M. I. Griffin, Jnr, Latitudinarianism in the Seventeenth-Century Church of England (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992), John Gascoigne, Cambridge in the Age of Enlightenment (Cambridge: CUP, 1989), and John Spurr, The Restoration Church of England (New Haven: Yale, 1991). See also the fine early study by McAdoo, Spirit of Anglicanism (1965) and Philosophy, Science and Religion in England 1640–1700 ed. by R. Ashcraft, R. Kroll and P. Zagorin (Cambridge: CUP, 1992). See also R.H. Popkin’s essay, “The Philosophy of Bishop Stillingfleet”, JHP 9 (1971): 303–319, on the scientific and philosophical dimensions of Latitudinarianism, and J. Marshall, “The Ecclesiology of the Latitude-men. Stillingfleet, Tillotson and Hobbism.” JEH 36 (1985): 407–27.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Crocker
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AustraliaAustralia

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