BA History / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

Course unit details:
British Catholics and the Post-Reformation World

Unit code HIST32192
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


From the Act of Uniformity under Elizabeth I to Catholic emancipation in 1819, English, Welsh, and Scottish Catholics faced unprecedented marginalisation and legal discrimination. By examining their culture, particularly its material, visual, and performative aspects, this course explores how British Catholics negotiated and navigated the world in the face of Protestant anti-popery. 
Considering them at home, in continental Europe, and in New World colonies such as Maryland, the module challenges the way Catholic identities are often subsumed or ignored in discussing elite and mainstream British culture after the Reformation. Through texts, paintings, architecture, and other extant materials, students will investigate British Catholic engagement with a range of wider historical forces, including post-Tridentine Catholic reform and global missions to places like Japan and America, religious toleration and conflict, absolutism, colonialism, social hierarchies, gender norms, and the enlightenment. In doing so, they will interrogate the meaning of marginalisation, identity, and intersectionality, to understand the complexities, diversity, and influence of British Catholics in the post-Reformation period. 


•    To become comfortable analysing visual, material, and textual sources.
•    To challenge older views of Catholic irrelevance to mainstream British culture after the Reformation, and of British Catholic isolationism, by engagement with recent scholarship.
•    To explore the concept of marginalisation itself, and the how the intersection of different identities complicate, and enrich, the lives of marginalised groups.
•    To refine analysis of primary and secondary sources, as well as academic writing skills.

Knowledge and understanding

•    Knowledge of British Catholic culture from c.1558-1819 and its relationship to Catholic culture more broadly, as well as to mainstream British culture and Protestantism. 
•    Understand how major scholarly debates on British Catholicism challenge older historiographical narratives, and affect our understanding of religious dissent, and other marginalised groups.
•    Understand the differences in the Scottish, English, and Welsh responses to Catholics and Catholicism, and Catholic culture in these nations.
•    Knowledge and understanding of methods for exploring cultural history, and an appreciation of how this can contribute to wider historiographical debates.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

•    Identify and interpret appropriate research resources, from libraries, archives, collections, and digital projects.
•    Critical thinking and analysis of a range of textual, visual, and material primary evidence, alongside the historiography, to make persuasive historical arguments.
•    Work collaboratively as part of a team to provide constructive criticism and encouragement.
•    Oral and written communication skills.
•    Taking initiative with independent research and project management to meet deadlines.
•    An awareness of how intersectionality has affected marginalisation and discrimination.

Assessment methods

•    One 4,000 word essay (70% of final mark)
•    One 2,000 word primary source analysis (30% of final mark)

Feedback methods

•    In-seminar feedback during class discussion. [Formative]
•    Workshop discussion of the primary sources for their analysis paper and of work-in-progress for summative work. [Formative]
•    Written comments on a primary source analysis draft handed in by reading week. [Formative]
•    Additional one-to-one feedback via office hours or by appointment. [Formative and Summative]
•    Electronic feedback. [Summative] 

Recommended reading

•    R. Corthell, F. E. Dolan, C. Highley, and A. F. Marotti (eds.), Catholic Culture in Early Modern England (Indiana, 2007)
•    Alexandra Walsham, Catholic Reformation in Protestant Britain (Farnham, 2014)
•    B. Kaplan, B. Moore, H. van Nierop, and J. Pollmann (eds.), Catholic Communities in Protestant States: Britain and the Netherlands c.1570-1720 (Manchester, 2009)
•    Peter Lake with Michael Questier, The Antichrist's Lewd Hat: Protestants, Papists and Players in Post-Reformation England (New Haven & London, 2002)
•    Peter Marshall and Geoffrey Scott (eds.), Catholic Gentry in English Society: The Throckmortons of Coughton from Reformation in Emancipation (Farnham, 2009)
•    Caroline Bowden and James Kelly (eds.), The English Convents in Exile, 1600-1800: Communities, Culture, and Identity (2013)
•    John McCallum (ed.) Scotland's Long Reformation: New Perspectives on Scottish Religion, c.1500-1660 (Leiden, 2016)
•    Diana Wood (ed.), Martyrs and Martyrologies (1993)
•    Susan M. Cogan, Catholic Social Networks in Early Modern England: Kinship, Gender, and Coexistence (Amsterdam, 2021)
•    Liam Chambers & Thomas O’Connor (eds.), College Communities Abroad: Education, migration, and Catholicism in early modern Europe (Manchester, 2017)
•    Liesbeth Corens, Confessional Mobility and English Catholics in Counter-Reformation Europe (Oxford, 2019)
•    Clare Haynes, Pictures and Popery: Art and Religion in England, 1660-1760 (Aldershot, 2006)
•    Gabriel Glickman, The English Catholic Community 1688-1745: Politics, Culture, and Ideology (Woodbridge, 2009)
•    Natalie A. Zacek, Settler Society in the English Leeward Islands, 1670–1776 (Cambridge, 2010)
•    Stefania Tutino, Thomas White and the Blackloists: Between Politics and Theology during the English Civil War (Aldershot, 2008) 
•    Ulrich L. Lehner, The Catholic Enlightenment: The Forgotten History of a Global Movement (Oxford, 2016)
•    Douglas Hamilton & Allan Macinnes (eds.), Jacobitism, Enlightenment and Empire, 1680-1820 (London, 2014)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Sarah Johanesen Unit coordinator

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