George Dawson - The Lost Prophet


George Dawson came to Birmingham in 1844. By the time he died in 1876, the town was the envy of the civilised world. A celebrated lecturer, heterodox preacher and political activist, Dawson's greatest achievement was the development of an ethos which became known as the ‘civic gospel’. Perhaps the crucial influence on Joseph Chamberlain, this translated the passion and mission of religion into an effort to make a new and better kind of city, one that would benefit all of its citizens. As part of this civic gospel, Dawson founded the world's first great public Shakespeare library for everyone in Birmingham, very much including its working people. ‘Everything to everybody’, was Dawson's watchword. Today his name – and the trailblazing reputation of the city which he helped to build – have been largely forgotten. In this article, Professor Ewan Fernie recovers that lost story, and makes a passionate case for its relevance today.

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Keywords: George Dawson, Professor Ewan Fernie, Civic Gospel, Joseph Chamberlain, Birmingham, Shakespeare, Shakespeare Library, Everything to Everybody

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