Anti-Catholicism across British History (c.1520-2000)

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of History, Classics and Archaeology


This network brings together scholars from a range of disciplines (History, Art History, Literature, Social Psychology, Politics, Sociology, Theology) and who work on a diverse range of historical periods (the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries) to consider anti-Catholicism as a major aspect of modern British History. Its title "Anti-Catholicism in British History" refers to the fact that scholars of each century of British History after the Reformation have accorded anti-Catholicism a central role in a range of historical events and processes: the Reformation, Civil Wars, Exclusion Crisis, Glorious Revolution, national identities, empire, the emergence of enlightened concepts like liberty and reason, and the formation of anti-Irish and anti-French sentiment being the most prominent examples. As it stands, however, the topic has been studied in a piecemeal, period-by-period basis. By taking a longer perspective, the network will consider how anti-Catholicism (in particular) and prejudice (in general) develops over time and what it develops in response to.

The network will bring scholars together in order to consider how anti-Catholicism functioned similarly and differently in different periods of British history. It will develop methodologies for researching the ways in which a prejudice adapts across a significant period of time, consider the roles which stereotypes and representations had in sustaining and adapting anti-Catholic prejudice and seek to interrogate the purpose of conspiracy theories to political and religious movements. The network will encourage new ways of thinking about anti-Catholicism through the benefit of comparative chronological perspectives, and create an over-arching perspective on how anti-Catholic intolerance developed over the course of 4 centuries. Its findings will be important in developing future research not just for scholars of British History but, by bringing into dialogue approaches in Social Psychology, History and Literature Studies, the network's research will foster research methodologies which will be of interest to scholars of all forms of prejudice in a range of disciplines.

The network will principally involve 4 workshops. The first (in Newcastle) will consider the methodologies necessary to investigate anti-Catholicism in the longue duree of British history, investigate current research models and paradigms, work towards formulating new methodological strategies, and draw out continuities and contrasts across the 4 centuries of the network's research. The second (at Ushaw College) will bring into dialogue scholarship on stereotypes in Social Psychology and History to interrogate contrasting approaches with a view to fostering new methodologies. The third (at Auckland Castle) will consider the role of representations (textual and visual) in sustaining anti-Catholicism across the centuries. The final workshop (at Newcastle) considers the ways in which conspiracy theories created master-narratives of "popery" as the great "Other" at crucial moments in British history. Once again, comparing approaches across disciplines (History and Social Psychology in particular) will foster new methodologies for approaching the topic.

Collaboration with a wider public will principally be maintained through the network's interactive website. This will allow the public to comment on and respond to the network's papers and podcasts of its public lectures, and to be actively involved in the on-line symposium which will be held in November 2018. The public will also be engaged in the network through an on-line exhibition (which will be created in conjunction with the network's partner institutions: Ushaw College and Auckland Castle).

Planned Impact

The primary groups outside academia who could benefit from this research are:

Museum and heritage professionals and broadcasters interested in engaging a public audience:
The network's website will feature 24 artefacts (1 for each month of the network grant's duration). These will be used as a pathway into moments of British history in a manner similar to BBC 4's 'History of the World in a 100 objects'.
The artefacts chosen will embody key themes of anti-Catholicism in a way which challenges the public to reconsider the British past. It will do so by selecting events and process in British history in which anti-Catholicism played a significant, but, as far as the public are concerned, under-heralded role.
The PI will be advised by curators at partner institutions - Ushaw College and Auckland Castle - to facilitate the creation of this resource. Permission has been granted to use resources housed by partner institutions (and in the British Museum) free of charge.

Teachers and other educators:
Given the prominence of anti-Catholicism across four centuries of British history, the provision of accessible materials on the network's website will assist school teachers and other educators looking to enhance the curriculum. Bibliographic lists, the artefacts mentioned above, and synopses of presentations and papers will be vital here. Local school teachers who specialise in history and religious education will be invited to the workshops to ensure that the engagement with educators is direct and that they have the opportunity to advise on how best to present material on the website for schools.

Church groups of various denominations:
A series of public events across the England at centres for the Newman Society of Catholic Intellectuals, and at the Catholic History Day at the Bar Convent, York, in 2018 will seek to engage British Catholics about their own past. These events have already been agreed.

Members of the public interested in history:
Short synopses (1,000 words) of papers presented by participants at the network's workshops will be available on the website.
A series of public engagement events will be hosted by the PI. These include a series of public lectures at the Newcastle Lit & Phil Society, Newcastle University and Auckland Castle.
These lectures and events will be filmed and uploaded to the network's website to ensure a wider audience.
The website will also be interactive, allowing the public to respond to lectures, blog posts and artefacts with comments, questions or by providing new information. In this way, the impact of the research will be traceable, and the exchange of ideas between academia and the public will be two-way.

Public bodies interested in understanding prejudice/intolerance:
The product of the network's interdisciplinary dialogue on intolerance will be the development of a series of key methodologies and strategies for studying and understanding intolerance over a long period of time.
The interactive element of the website will seek to elicit responses from public bodies working to understand prejudice and intolerance. The PI has developed a working relationship with Nil By Mouth (an anti-sectarian organisation), and will approach other anti-sectarian organisations (including Consensus and Trademark in Belfast) during the duration of the grant. The knowledge exchange undertaken will seek to consider how historical understanding of prejudice can inform present-day anti-sectarian initiatives.


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Description The key objectives of the award have been fulfilled: 4 workshops took place in 2018 and 2019; a website has been built to promote the research, help to bring scholars working on anti-popery together, promote ECR research, and engage the public; a considerable number of public talks have been held; and multiple publications are in preparation. The primary output of the network - an edited volume of essays - was reviewed very favourably by MUP at book proposal stage. The MS will be submitted in summer 2021. The series editors think that it will amount to a paradigm shift in the field.

The first 2 of 4 workshops ran in 2018 (March and September) and links have been made with other centres (Catholic Records Society, Centre for Catholic Studies [Durham], COMPACT). At the first research event in January future research in the field of anti-Catholicism was identified as necessary in the nineteenth century specifically and models for interdisciplinary research synergies were agreed upon. The first workshop (March 2018) included 19 speakers from 5 countries, 12 delegates and 2 members of the public. It outlined the trajectories of anti-Catholicism in British history across 4 centuries and identified the key research questions for the network. A dedicated skills session on stereotypes involved dialogue between social psychologists, historians, theologians, and literature scholars on a key methodological challenge in assessing prejudice over 4 centuries. Ways forward and interdisciplinary dialogue proved fruitful. The second workshop (September 2018) included 34 speakers from 10 different countries. This events situated the theme of the network's research - anti-Catholicism in Britain - in a wider context (Europe and America). Discussion concluded that although there is a common language and imagery of anti-Catholicism across all regions, what made it uniquely 'British' in British History was its attachment to specific events and processes in popular memory.

The second two workshops ran in April 2019 and August 2019. The one for April focussed on the representation of anti-popery across literature, art, history, and theology. It featured over 30 participants. I have plans to edit a separate volume from the main one for the network on this theme in 2022-23. Speakers at this conference came from 8 countries, and a skills session featuring literature, theologians, and historians looked at how the idea of 'representation' is approach with contrasting methods. The theme of the workshop was to think about stereotypes and motifs were common in the representation of 'popery' across the centuries and how this may have contributed to both the longevity of the ideology, its apparent (though illusory) solidity, and its malleability. The workshop in August 2019 focussed on two things: conspiracy theories, and future plans. We have a morning session led by social psychologists (Robbie Sutton, Karen Douglas and Jovan Byford) exploring the various methods which might be used to analyse conspiratorial mindsets. We then considered how this might lead to inter-disciplinary historical practice and - crucially for the principle aims of this network - whether analysing anti-popery as a conspiracy theory might be a crucial way forward in locating it across the longue durree of British history. I will be co-authoring a paper with Jovan Byford on that theme in the volume of essays mentioned above. The session then considered how the network might continue to work going forward. We considered areas for future research, and agreed that there were two substantial research bids to be worked up in the coming 4 years. The principle aim of the network - to drive research into anti-popery in British history - has therefore been met and a substantial research application on the role of memory and stereotype is in preparation.

The project's website features content for both academic and general audiences. In 2019 an 'item of interest' section has been added. This uses objects as a way into a key theme of event relating to anti-popery as a way of exploring this for a wider audience. The website will continue for at least one year after the ending of the funding (at my own expense) and I will continue to update the research blog (which has been popular and successful). The book proposal for the edited volume emerging from the network includes 13 scholars. I have written 2 articles exploring the main themes of the network (how to analyze anti-popery across centuries of British history) which will be submitted to journals early in the next REF cycle. The output parts of the grant are therefore well on their way to completion.

A host of other outputs have also emerged. 3 members of the network team have been invited to submitted chapters to another volume, edited by Geraldine Vaughan. Vaughan is also organsing a workshop in Rouen during 2021, to which multiple members of the network will be involved. An application for a Marie Curie post-doc on anti-Catholic science (Adam Richter) was submitted in 2019 and scored very highly (it met the threshold but was unsuccessful). It is likely to be re-submitted for this round. I have written an piece on anti-popery 1530-1829 for a handbook to Catholic history for Brill (forthcoming 2021 - at press); and have been invited to write one for OUP (edited by Leisbeth Correns and John Morrill - forthcoming 2022). These are outputs over and above what was promised and a sign, I think, that the network has been successful.
Exploitation Route The published outputs of this project will be of significant importance to scholars of British history from the sixteenth to the twentieth century. They will also help to shape interdisciplinary synergies on the study of prejudice. This will be a core component of the journal articles and edited collection which emerge after the duration of the grant funding. The PI has also been contacted by scholars in other continents who are keen to collaborate on the study of anti- Catholicism after the duration of the award.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description The award has been running since September 2017. Public interest has been relatively high and at the 3 public lectures held thus far in the award members of the public have mentioned that their opinions about British History have been changed by the Network's preliminary findings. The PI has been contacted by a range of public societies and local history groups who are interested in hosting events tied to the project and two additional engagement events are scheduled for 2018/19 which were not originally plannned in the grant proposal. The PI has been invited to submit essays about the network's research to two companion volumes (published by Routledge and Oxford). 3 other members of the network team have included in a volume on anti-Catholicism been edited by scholars in France, principally by Geraldine Vaughan (currently under review).
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Other
Impact Types Cultural

Description Centre for 19th Century Studies, Durham University 
Organisation Durham University
Department Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The Network collaborated with the Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies at Durham University to host a one-day workshop, 'Anti-Catholicism in 19th Century Britain' on 31/01/18. Experts in this field - Harry Cocks (Nottingham), Sarah Roddy (Manchester), Jonathan Bush (Durham), and Andrew Atherstone (Oxford) - presented papers of work in process and then a general discussion was held. Adam Morton (PI) and Joan Allen (Steering Committee) organised the event. The Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies organised it. 25 delegates atteneded.
Collaborator Contribution The Centre for Nineteenth Century Studies advertised the event and sponsorsed it under its 'Research Conversations' series. Several members of the centre attended and participated in discussions. A much larger event - potentially a conference - has been discussed for the future.
Impact No outcomes as yet. A future conference has been discussed. Joan Allen is also keen to use this event as a springboard for a volume on 19th Century Anti-Catholicism, potentially in her book series with Palgrave.
Start Year 2018
Description University of Rouen 
Organisation University of Rouen
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I am working closely with Geraldine Vaughan and Claire Gheearts-Grafeuille at the university of Rouen. We will be developing a workshop in 2021, and talks have begun to formalise a research collaboration (perhaps in a funding grant).
Collaborator Contribution Participants in the network (Alan Ford and Carys Brown) are publishing papers in a volume edited by Vaughan (Palgrave), which I reviewed.
Impact Publications are not yet out. I will update them in subsequent years when they are.
Start Year 2019
Description Project website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This is the project website. It provides a full bibliography of scholarship on anti-Catholicism in Britain, a blog on key research questions, and reports of the workshops. It also introduces new research in the field to a wider audience. An exhibition will follow in 2019. It will be added to after the duration of the reward.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
Description Public Lecture Newcastle Lit & Phil Society 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a public lecture at the Newcastle Lit & Phil society. The title was 'Battling the Beast: The Rise and Fall of Antichrist in England 155-1700' and the lecture was given on 4 Dec 2017 to 75 members of the public (ages ranging from approximately 20-80). This research is directly related to the AHRC Network award. There was over 45 minutes of questions afterwards, and the Lit & Phil reported a higher than usual level of interest in the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Public Lecture, Historical Association, Durham 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a public lecture given to the Durham Branch of the Historical Association on 19 September 2017. The title was 'The Legacy of the Reformation' and the research was directly related to the AHRC Network award. The argument essentially justified this award, suggesting that anti-Catholicism was a major part of the legacy of the Reformation. There were approximately 50 people in the audience, and an hour of questions after the talk. Many audience members requested that I return at the end of the project to update them on its findings.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Public lecture - Newcastle Lit & Phil 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This was a public lecture given at the Newcastle Literature and Philosophical Society on 22 October 2019. The theme was tolerance and intolerance in the early modern period, and I explored anti-catholiclism as a principle part of that. This was one lecture among 5 on the theme of how intellectual history can address contemporary problems. The event was well attended, and discussing was very vibrant.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Talk outlining the network's research to a local Catholic History society in Gateshead. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A talk to the local Catholic History society. The talk will lasted one hour to an audience of 40-50 people. Questions and discussion were sparked afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019