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The origins of recusancy in Elizabethan England reconsidered

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Smith, FE 


Most historians now acknowledge that Catholic recusancy existed in small pockets throughout 1560s and early 1570s England thanks to the sporadic efforts of a handful of former Marian priests. However, it is widely agreed that the influx of continentally trained seminarians and missionaries from abroad after 1574 was responsible for transforming the 'curious and confused' activities of these Marian clergymen into a fully fledged, intellectually justified campaign in favour ofnonconformity. This article challenges this consensus through investigation ofa neglected group of clerics - the cathedral clergy of Mary I's reign. Drawing on insights emerging from recent research into the nature of Mary's church, it demonstrates how these clerics became key agents in the so-called 'invention of the Counter-Reformation' in Marian England. It suggests that this 'upbringing' gave these priests the determination and skills to become leaders ofa co-ordinated campaign in favour ofprincipled nonconformity following Elizabeth' s accession. Far from lacking the zeal of their seminary and missionary counterparts, this article sees the former cathedral clergy imitating the practices of their adversaries and anticipating the strategies of the later English mission in order to promote recusancy throughout England from as early as 1560.



4303 Historical Studies, 43 History, Heritage and Archaeology

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Historical Journal

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Cambridge University Press (CUP)
This research, which was undertaken during my MPhil year at Cambridge, was partially funded through a generous grant from Clare College and the University of Cambridge’s Newton Trust.