This dissertation examines the long trajectory of revival religion in the eighteenth century by following George Whitefield into his latter years beyond the height of the Great Awakening. Known as the Grand Itinerant, he was not only the most important preacher of the eighteenth century but also a cultural phenomenon whose life bears significance for understanding the British Atlantic world. If a study of Whitefield must work out the complex puzzles presented by his peripatetic life, there is also the prospect of rich insights to be gleaned from a grand globetrotting life that held the attention of British subjects everywhere captive across three decades.
By focusing on this prominent priest who declared the whole world his parish, the dissertation argues that the evangelical revivals became absorbed into larger processes of British imperial state formation over the course of the eighteenth century. Due to his homiletical effectiveness, historians and hagiographers alike have placed inordinate focus on Whitefield the preacher. By paying close attention to the imperial context of the itinerant’s religious career, this study uncovers connections between evangelical faith and the broader culture which provided the soil for its growth. Though Whitefield stepped onto a tumultuous stage in the mid 1730s, by the time of his death in 1770, a new world was coming into shape. His ongoing revision of revival strategies contributed much to this remaking. Therefore, tracing Whitefield’s later years will show that some of his most significant contributions came after the revivals, as he struggled to work out the implications of a fast-fading revivalism in the face of an ever-expanding empire.