Historians have sometimes argued, and popular discourse certainly assumes, that evangelicalism and fundamentalism are identical. In the twenty-first century, when Islamic fundamentalism is at the center of the world's attention, whether or not evangelicalism should be seen as the Christian version of fundamentalism is an important matter for public understanding. The essays that make up this book analyze this central question. Drawing on empirical evidence from many parts of the United Kingdom and from across the course of the twentieth century, the essays show that fundamentalism certainly existed in Britain, that evangelicals did sometimes show tendencies in a fundamentalist direction, but that evangelicalism in Britain cannot simply be equated with fundamentalism.
The evangelical movement within Protestantism that arose in the wake of the eighteenth-century revival exerted an immense influence on British society over the two subsequent centuries. Christian fundamentalism, by contrast, had its origins in the United States following the publication of The Fundamentals, a series of pamphlets issued to ministers between 1910 and 1915 that was funded by California oilmen. While there was considerable British participation in writing the series, the term "fundamentalist" was invented in an exclusively American context when, in 1920, it was coined to describe the conservative critics of theological liberalism. The fundamentalists in Britain formed only a small section of evangelical opinion that declined over time.