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Title page for ETD etd-04092010-192533

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Sanderson, Mary Louise
URN etd-04092010-192533
Title “Our own Catholic countrymen”: religion, loyalism, and subjecthood in Britain and its empire, 1755-1829
Degree PhD
Department History
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Katherine B. Crawford Committee Chair
James A. Epstein Committee Co-Chair
Bridget E, Orr Committee Member
Catherine A. Molineux Committee Member
Matthew Ramsey Committee Member
Peter Lake Committee Member
  • ireland
  • quebec
  • national identity
  • british politics
  • scottish highlands
Date of Defense 2010-02-05
Availability unrestricted
My dissertation challenges the prevailing view of late eighteenth century Britain as a Protestant state. By examining the development of Catholic peoples’ political and cultural positions in the British Isles and the empire between the Seven Years War and the passage of Catholic emancipation, my work shows how the British government adopted a flexible attitude towards Catholics.

The latter part of the eighteenth century was marked by a moment of potential for Catholic-Protestant relations. Britain was transforming from an early modern to a modern society at this time. Older ideas of the need for a clear social hierarchy and an established church existed alongside a growing public sphere and the beginnings of nationalist thought. In these circumstances, some Britons believed it was both necessary and possible to extend legal concessions to Catholics without undermining the established church and the British Constitution. The Catholic Relief Acts of the 1770s and 1790s embodied this mindset by allowing Catholics greater civil rights while still keeping them in a legally inferior position. This time of potential reached its climax just after the passage of the 1801 Act of Union, uniting Ireland and Britain into one country. William Pitt originally intended to package the Union with a repeal of most of the remaining restrictions against Catholics in the hopes that it would pacify the Irish. However, George III refused to allow it, and, as far as Catholics were concerned, the United Kingdom came into being amid an atmosphere of disappointment and betrayal. When Parliament finally did pass Catholic emancipation in 1829, it did so under duress in order to avoid civil war in Ireland.

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