Il lato eterodosso di ogni questione: Joseph Priestley e la «Ecclesiastical History»
Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) is the most outstanding natural philosopher of British Enlightenment, celebrated for his discoveries in the fields of electricity and chemistry of airs. However, Priestley was mainly a theologian, a pastor, an historian, an untiring polemist who wanted to affirm a true Christianity based on a Unitarian vision of God. He was the most famous British Socinian of the eighteenth century. His mammoth collection of philosophical and theological works includes sermons, discourses, pamphlets, historical works and multivolume treatises. This paper focuses on Priestley’s General History of the Christian Church, published in six volumes from 1790 to 1803, and aims at demonstrating that Priestley was a heterodox and radical thinker, but also an apologist of the Christian Revelation, very critical of Edward Gibbon and of the anti-Christian philosophers.
Keywords: Priestley • History of the Christian Church • Gibbon • Unitarianism • British Enlightenment