Catholic politics and creating trust in eighteenth-century England

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In eighteenth-century law and print, English Catholics were portrayed as entirely untrustworthy, and their exclusion from all aspects of English society encouraged. Yet, as many local studies have shown, there were numerous individual cases of relatively peaceful coexistence between Protestants and Catholics in this period. This article explores why this was the case by examining how Catholics overcame labels of untrustworthiness on a local level. Using the remarkable political influence of one high-status Catholic in the first half of the eighteenth century as a case study, it questions the utility of “pragmatism” as an explanation for instances of peaceful coexistence in this period. Instead it focuses on the role that deliberate Catholic resistance to legal disabilities played in allowing them to be considered as trustworthy individuals in their localities. The resulting picture of coexistence points towards a moderation of the historiographical emphasis on mutual compromise between confessions in favour of attention to the determined resilience of minority groups. In explaining this, this article makes the broader point that the influence of trust, long important in studies of early modern economic, political, and social relationships, is ripe for exploration in the context of interconfessional relations.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Catholic History
Issue number4
Early online date6 Sep 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017