Author: Roy Hattersley
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: 2017-03-02
The story of Catholicism in Britain from the Reformation to the present day, from a master of popular history – 'A first-class storyteller' The Times Throughout the three hundred years that followed the Act of Supremacy – which, by making Henry VIII head of the Church, confirmed in law the breach with Rome – English Catholics were prosecuted, persecuted and penalised for the public expression of their faith. Even after the passing of the emancipation acts Catholics were still the victims of institutionalised discrimination. The first book to tell the story of the Catholics in Britain in a single volume, The Catholics includes much previously unpublished information. It focuses on the lives, and sometimes deaths, of individual Catholics – martyrs and apostates, priests and laymen, converts and recusants. It tells the story of the men and women who faced the dangers and difficulties of being what their enemies still call ‘Papists’. It describes the laws which circumscribed their lives, the political tensions which influenced their position within an essentially Anglican nation and the changes in dogma and liturgy by which Rome increasingly alienated their Protestant neighbours – and sometime even tested the loyalty of faithful Catholics. The survival of Catholicism in Britain is the triumph of more than simple faith. It is the victory of moral and spiritual unbending certainty. Catholicism survives because it does not compromise. It is a characteristic that excites admiration in even a hardened atheist.
The study of the Reformation in England and Wales, Ireland and Scotland has usually been treated by historians as a series of discrete national stories. Reformation in Britain and Ireland draws upon the growing genre of writing about British History to construct an innovative narrative of religious change in the four countries/three kingdoms. The text uses a broadly chronological framework to consider the strengths and weaknesses of the pre-Reformation churches; the political crises of the break with Rome; the development of Protestantism and changes in popular religious culture. The tools of conversion - the Bible, preaching and catechising - are accorded specific attention, as is doctrinal change. It is argued that political calculations did most to determine the success or failure of reformation, though the ideological commitment of a clerical elite was also of central significance.
The Reformation was a seismic event in history, whose consequences are still working themselves out in Europe and across the world. The protests against the marketing of indulgences staged by the German monk Martin Luther in 1517 belonged to a long-standing pattern of calls for internal reform and renewal in the Christian Church. But they rapidly took a radical and unexpected turn, engulfing first Germany and then Europe as a whole in furious arguments about how God's will was to be 'saved'. However, these debates did not remain confined to a narrow sphere of theology. They came to reshape politics and international relations; social, cultural, and artistic developments; relations between the sexes; and the patterns and performances of everyday life. They were also the stimulus for Christianity's transformation into a truly global religion, as agents of the Roman Catholic Church sought to compensate for losses in Europe with new conversions in Asia and the Americas. Covering both Protestant and Catholic reform movements, in Europe and across the wider world, this beautifully illustrated volume tells the story of the Reformation from its immediate, explosive beginnings, through to its profound longer-term consequences and legacy for the modern world. The story is not one of an inevitable triumph of liberty over oppression, enlightenment over ignorance. Rather, it tells how a multitude of rival groups and individuals, with or without the support of political power, strove after visions of 'reform'. And how, in spite of themselves, they laid the foundations for the plural and conflicted world we now inhabit.
Modern scholars, fixated on the 'winners' in England's sixteenth- and seventeenth-century religious struggles, have too readily assumed the inevitability of Protestantism's historical triumph and have uncritically accepted the reformers' own rhetorical construction of themselves as embodiments of an authentic Englishness. Christopher Highley interrogates this narrative by examining how Catholics from the reign of Mary Tudor to the early seventeenth century contested and shaped discourses of national identity, patriotism, and Englishness. Accused by their opponents of espousing an alien religion, one orchestrated from Rome and sustained by Spain, English Catholics fought back by developing their own self-representations that emphasized how the Catholic faith was an ancient and integral part of true Englishness. After the accession of the Protestant Elizabeth, the Catholic imagining of England was mainly the project of the exiles who had left their homeland in search of religious toleration and foreign assistance. English Catholics constructed narratives of their own religious heritage and identity, however, not only in response to Protestant polemic but also as part of intra-Catholic rivalries that pitted Marian clergy against seminary priests, secular priests against Jesuits, and exiled English Catholics against their co-religionists from other parts of Britain and Ireland. Drawing on the reassessments of English Catholicism by John Bossy, Christopher Haigh, Alexandra Walsham, Michael Questier and others, Catholics Writing the Nation foregrounds the faultlines within and between the various Catholic communities of the Atlantic archipelago. Eschewing any confessional bias, Highley's book is an interdisciplinary cultural study of an important but neglected dimension of Early Modern English Catholicism. In charting the complex Catholic engagement with questions of cultural and national identity, he discusses a range of genres, texts, and documents both in print and manuscript, including ecclesiastical histories, polemical treatises, antiquarian tracts, and correspondence. His argument weaves together a rich historical narrative of people, events, and texts while also offering contextualized close readings of specific works by figures such as Edmund Campion, Robert Persons, Thomas Stapleton, and Richard Verstegan.