Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

A Neglected Religious Thinker: José María Blanco White (1775-1841)

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2021), 98, (6), 561–580.

Abstract

‘Dissent is the great characteristic of liberty’ was the central tenet in the life of José María Blanco White (1775-1841), a Spanish exile in Britain, whose fame as a man of letters often obscures the fact that he was first and foremost a religious thinker. The milestones of his life were set by his conversions, from Catholicism to Anglicanism (1814), and finally to Unitarianism (1835). Yet his theological ideas continue to be the least researched part of his oeuvre, mostly due to the problematic reception of his work, so that the ex-Catholic Blanco White - rather than the Protestant Blanco White - continues to occupy centre stage. This article reconstructs the spiritual biography of Blanco White, showing how skilfully he navigated through the world of European Protestantism, arguing that it was in Observations on Heresy and Orthodoxy (1835) that he reached the peak of his creative powers as an original religious thinker.

‘El derecho a disentir es la gran característica de la libertad’ fue el principio rector de la vida de José María Blanco White (1775-1841), un exiliado español en Gran Bretaña, cuya fama como hombre de letras a menudo oscurece el hecho de que su vocación principal fue la de pensador religioso. Los hitos de su vida estuvieron marcados por sus conversiones, del catolicismo al anglicanismo (1814), y finalmente al unitarismo (1835). No obstante, sus ideas teológicas siguen siendo la parte menos investigada de su obra, debido a la recepción problemática que su figura, difícil de categorizar, sigue teniendo. Ello se refleja en una historiografía donde el ex católico Blanco White, en vez del protestante Blanco White, sigue ocupando la mayor atención. Este artículo reconstruye la biografía espiritual de Blanco White, mostrando cuan hábilmente navegó por el mundo del protestantismo europeo, y cómo alcanzó la cima de su originalidad y creatividad como pensador religioso en Observations on Heresy and Orthodoxy (1835).

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ACLE-KREYSING, ANDREA