Joseph Blanco White was a Spanish theologian, writer and poet. He campaigned against intolerance in different ways: against Napoleonic invasion of Spain, for the religious right to convert between churches (which he did from Catholic priesthood to Anglicanism), and in support of the independence of South American countries from Spanish colonial rule. He is best remembered for his sonnet Night and Death which he dedicated to Samuel Coleridge.  

José Maria Blanco y Crespo (1775 – 1841), later known more widely as Joseph Blanco White was born in Seville and grew up fully determined to join the Catholic Church. He was ordained a priest in December 1800, but soon had religious doubts, particularly over the enforced placement of young women into convents.

In 1810, when the French invaded Seville, he moved to London, where he became the editor of El Español (‘The Spaniard’), a new monthly magazine which was distributed in Spain. In it, he strongly supported independence for South American colonies and recognition of the Juntas (an alternative, patriotic government) in each country by the Spanish Cortes (parliament). He also campaigned for the South American states to remain loyal to the deposed Spanish monarchy and advocated free trade between Spain and the South American countries.

El Español incited Spanish opposition to the French and urged opposition to Napoleon. As a result of this, in 1815 he was awarded a British government pension of £250 a year.

White renewed his religious studies and ultimately entered the Anglican Church. He published a number of books describing his journey away from Catholicism and criticising that religion. He eventually moved to Liverpool, where he was prominent in the Unitarian Church until his death there in 1841.

This plaque can be found inside the Renshaw Street Chapel memorial in Roscoe Gardens, Liverpool. It was presented by his birthplace of Seville in 1984. It is one of two memorials to White – the other is in the Unitarian Church in Ullet Road.


Did you know..?

Joseph Blanco White wrote the article on Spain for the first ever Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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