Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



The following study examines the political, economic, social, and religious lives of a variety of lay Catholic recusants in the context of their relationship with the monarch and royal government. The thrust of this thesis is to explore how this relationship affected both the individuals and the continued existence and form of Catholicism in a Protestant country. The legislation and political maneuverings against English Catholics were not a unique experience for a minority faith during the 16th and 17th centuries. During Elizabeth’s reign, English Catholics faced inconsistent legislation, outright persecution, and disinterested government action against the practice of the Catholic faith and their persons. Their adaptions to this volatile environment produced what would eventually become the small, aristocratic enclaves of Catholicism in the 17th and 18th centuries. Despite their status, English Catholics did not retreat entirely from public life or give up their economic and political pursuits. These men and women were required to adapt to the new circumstances though. This thesis argues against previous scholars assertions that legal, financial, and religious barriers for English Catholics were simply another hurdle to jump through to attain political or economic aspirations. The numbers of individuals who faced legal and financial ramifications are telling of the extent the Elizabethan government could prosecute Catholics. But, the limitations of early modern bureaucracy are also found in the individuals who discovered ways around land sequestration, fines, and continued to practice Catholicism. Over time, English Catholics were slowly, yet not systematically, removed from public offices and service until by the end of Elizabeth’s reign only a few remained in positions of influence in either the local or national setting. In most cases, these were aristocratic men.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Stater, Victor



Included in

History Commons