Conference Report: Catholic and Protestant Responses to the Early Modern Papacy

Emma Turnbull looks back over a fascinating workshop designed to showcase the work of graduate students and early career researchers. The symposium was held at TORCH (Radcliffe Humanities Building, Oxford) on Saturday 6 February 2015. 

Anti-popery has been a burgeoning area of research across the humanities for the past three decades. Since Peter Lake urged us to examine the structure of anti-papal rhetoric in 1989, anti-popery has shaped recent narratives of confessional division, identity and nationhood in early modern Europe. The symposium aimed to bring together scholars working on different aspects of Catholic and Protestant anti-popery into a workshop. By bridging the still-pervasive divide between studies of Catholicism and Protestantism we hoped to broaden our understanding of the criticism, derision, and prejudice the papacy inspired.

The workshop began with papers touching on the Venetian Interdict crisis of 1606-7. Nina Lamal (St Andrews and Leuven) examined the different responses to the Interdict in the printed news circulating in Italy and the United Provinces. She argued that while anti-Roman tropes were prominent in Venice, these were sublimated to broader anti-Spanish themes in Dutch pamphlets. Emma Turnbull (Oxford) explored the 1608 travelogue of the English Protestant traveller, Thomas Coryate. Whilst Coryate displayed a marked hostility to the papacy, his writing also reveals an accommodating attitude towards Catholics and Catholic religion. This is indicative of a conflict within English Protestantism about what it means to be ‘anti-papal’.

The second panel shifted the focus from news and travel pamphlets to plays and polemic. Jan Machielsen (Oxford) assessed the various Catholic and Protestant responses to the myth of Pope Joan. Whilst acknowledging that certain confessional differences existed, he argued that more scholarship is needed to deepen our understanding of Catholic reform as a textual transformation. Paul Quinn (Sussex) examined the imagery of the cup on the English stage, demonstrating that the complex set of associations between ingestion, seduction and Catholicism merged powerfully in The Devil’s Charter by Barnabe Barnes. Abigail Shinn (St Andrews) compared the conversion tracts of two English Catholic converts to Protestantism, James Wadsworth and Thomas Gage. She focused on the theme of fatherhood and argued for its specific theological and personal meanings to these men as they transferred their religious allegiances.

The third session shifted the focus back on the political. Adam Morton (Newcastle) explored the Catholic queen consort to Charles II, Catherine of Braganza and argued, contrary to common perceptions of her marginality in the Popish Plot crisis, that as a Catholic woman close to the king Catherine commanded a level of fear and attention that meant she became a key figure of anti-Catholic polemic. Christian Schneider (Durham) examined the ‘flip-side’ of anti-popery, the efforts of Pope Clement VIII to broker peace in the Low Countries and in the Sweden-Poland dispute. He argued that Clement commanded a practical authority as peacemaker that transcended the confessional divide.

The symposium then heard a plenary lecture by Alison Shell (UCL), which brought to light the instability of satire as a platform for anti-popery but also the self-consciousness of satirists about engaging explicitly in polemic. She emphasised the significance of filial metaphors to describe the confessional division within Christendom and its capacity to convey obligation and unity as well as rivalry.

In the closing discussion, speakers and delegates affirmed the importance of thinking about anti-popery as both Catholic and Protestant. We also discussed how genre and audience shaped the nature and ferocity of anti-popery and how it ebbed and flowed according to political circumstance. Anti-popery remains a concept with inherently interdisciplinary connotations; fashioning an array of theological and political ideas and symbols into a prejudicial mindset. But it also emerges from this symposium as a mindset that sat alongside more practical, accommodating attitudes towards Catholicism and the papacy – and this flexibility is an important area of future study.

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Hilary 2015: interdisciplinary seminar



Thursdays 12.30–2pm – TORCH – Radcliffe Humanities Building

ALL WELCOME! Tea and coffee will be provided and feel free to bring along lunch

29 Jan Silvia Mostaccio


‘Jesuits and Obedience: A Crossroads in Early Modern Cultural History’ Colin Matthew Room
12 Feb Nikolas Funke


‘Living in ‘the Devil’s Other Hell’:

A Catholic Minority in Germany c.1600’

3rd floor Seminar Room
26 Feb Joana Serrado


‘The Discoveries of Portuguese

Female Mystics, 1500-1755’

3rd floor Seminar Room
5 Mar Gregory Hanlon


‘Baptismal Requirements and Routine Infanticide in Western Europe, 1500-1800’ Colin Matthew Room

Conveners: Clare Copeland, Nicholas Davidson, Tom Hamilton, Katie McKeogh, Emma Turnbull

Register now for our graduate and early-career symposium – 7 February

Catholic and Protestant Challenges to the Early Modern Papacy

Join us for a symposium exploring fear, hatred and opposition to Rome across the early modern confessional divide.

Keynote: Prof. Alison Shell (UCL), ‘Popery, Personification and Satire’

Confirmed speakers: Nina Lamal, Jan Machielsen, Adam Morton, Paul Quinn, Sophie Nicholls, Christian Schneider, Abigail Shinn & Emma Turnbull

SATURDAY 7 FEBRUARY, 9.30am-5pm, Radcliffe Humanities Building, Oxford

Register by Monday 26 January, by emailing:


Joint meeting with the Early Modern World seminar – 12 November

*Week 5 (Wednesday 12 November) – SPECIAL EVENT – joint meeting with the Early Modern World seminar hosting a group from the Domestic Devotions project, Univ. Cambridge. 

Domestic Devotions: The Place of Piety in the Renaissance Italian Home (Abigail Brundin, Irene Galandra Cooper, Maya Corry, Marco Faini, Deborah Howard, Mary Laven, Alessia Meneghin, Zuzanna Sarnecka, Katie Tycz)

This seminar will be held in the Christopher Cox Room at New College, 11.15 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Seminar – Michaelmas Term 2014 – Sanctity

– – – – – MICHAELMAS TERM 2014 – – – –

The Early Modern Catholicism Network Early Career Lunches


Mondays 12.30-1.30pm, Radcliffe Humanities Building, Third Floor Common Room. An interdisciplinary lunchtime discussion group meeting to consider new approaches to sanctity in the early modern world, particularly intended for graduate students and early career researchers, but all are warmly invited to attend. Starred texts will form the starting point for discussion. Free sandwich lunch provided. Contact to confirm participation.

Week 2 (20 October): Approaches to Sanctity

* Clare Copeland, ‘Sanctity’ in Alexandra Bamji, Geert H. Janssen, and Mary Laven eds., The Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter-Reformation (Farnham, 2013), pp. 225-241.

Simon Ditchfield, ‘Thinking with Saints: Sanctity and Society in the Early Modern World’, Critical Enquiry, 35 (2009), pp. 552-584.

Week 4 (3 November): The Material Culture of Sanctity

* Katrina Olds, ‘The Ambiguities of the Holy: Authenticating Relics in Seventeenth-Century Spain’, Renaissance Quarterly, 65 (2012), pp. 135-184.

Tracy Elizabeth Cooper and Marcia B. Hall eds., The Sensuous in the Counter-Reformation Church (Cambridge, 2013).

Week 6 (17 November): Sacred Kingship

* Azfar Moin, The Millennial Sovereign: Sacred Kingship and Sainthood in Islam (1400- 1700)(New York, 2012). Available online via SOLO.

Alan Strathern, ‘Drawing the Veil of Sovereignty: Early Modern Islamic Empires and Understanding Sacred Kingship’, History and Theory, 53 (2014), pp. 79-93.

Week 8 (1 December): The Politics of Sanctity

* Peter Lake and Michael Questier, The Trials of Margaret Clitherow: Persecution, Martyrdom, and the Politics of Sanctity in Early Modern England (London, 2011), especially chapter 3.

Gillian Ahlgren, Teresa of Avila and the Politics of Sanctity (Ithaca, 1996).

Conveners: Nicholas Davidson, Tom Hamilton, Katie McKeogh, Emma Turnbull

Workshop: Early Modern Catholic Life-Writing, 31 May 2014

Early Modern Catholic Life-Writing

31 May 2014, 10am – 4pm – Seminar Room, third floor – Radcliffe Humanities Building



Registration is free but spaces are limited. Contact


10.00 Welcome and introduction, Dr. Nicholas Davidson (St. Edmund Hall, University of Oxford) and Emma Turnbull (Balliol College, University of Oxford)

Chair: Dr. John-Paul Ghobrial (Balliol College, University of Oxford)

10.10 Robin MacDonald (University of York), ‘”I wrote to you from the sea”: landscapes, ‘travelling narratives’, and seventeenth century missionaries to New France’

10.45 Liesbeth Corens (Jesus College, University of Cambridge), ‘Collecting as mission: English Catholic record collectors bridging the channel’

11.20 Tea and coffee

Chair: Katie McKeogh (Linacre College, University of Oxford)

11.40 Arthur Downing (All Souls College, University of Oxford), ‘Social network analysis: a tool for early modern historians’

12.15 Lunch

Chair: Emma Turnbull (Balliol College, University of Oxford)

1.15 Katie McKeogh (Linacre College, University of Oxford), ‘Flowers of Fathers: contemporary and historical Catholic lives in an English Catholic commonplace book’

1.50 Johannes Depnering (Oriel College, University of Oxford), ‘Writing about “mystical experiences” in a diary-like manuscript: the late-medieval Dominican nun Elsbeth von Oye’

2.25 Tea and coffee

Chair: Tom Hamilton (New College, University of Oxford)

2.45 Marion de Lencquesaing (University of Paris 3 – Sorbonne Nouvelle), ‘How to begin the life of a saint after the Counter-Reformation? The portrait of the most Catholic Bénigne Frémyot in the first Lives of Jeanne de Chantal’

3.20 Closing discussion, Dr. Victoria Van Hyning (Zooniverse, University of Oxford)

4.00 Drinks reception


Organised by: Emma Turnbull, Tom Hamilton, Katie McKeogh and Nicholas Davidson

Early Modern Catholicism Network
~ Interdisciplinary Seminar ~


Seminar Room – Third Floor – Radcliffe Humanities Building – Mondays 1-2.30pm
Tea and coffee provided, feel free to bring lunch

Monday 5 May
Victoria van Hyning (Sheffield), ‘Convent Autobiography by English Nuns in Exile: Beyond Confessor-Mandated Vitae

Monday 19 May
   NB. Venue Change: Colin Matthew Room – Ground Floor – Radcliffe Humanities Building
Irène Plasman-Labrune (Paris), ‘Between Church and State? Foreign Churchmen and the Transformations of Catholicism in France, 1500-1700’

Monday 26 May
Oliver Ford (Oxford), ‘Coping with Decline: The Governors of Seville, 1647-1700’

Monday 2 June
Tara Alberts (York), ‘Miracles and Missionary Medicine in Early Modern Southeast Asia’

Monday 16 June
Alexandra Walsham (Cambridge), ‘The Pope’s Merchandise and the Jesuits’ Trumpery: Catholic Relics and Protestant Polemic in Early Modern England’

ONE-DAY WORKSHOP, Saturday 31 May: Early Modern Catholic Life-Writing
Entrance is free but spaces are limited. To register, contact:

~ The Early Modern Catholicism Network aims to bring together scholars interested in early modern Catholicism from across the humanities. All are welcome.
Convenors: Nicholas Davidson, Tom Hamilton, Katie McKeogh, Emma Turnbull ~


The Early Modern Catholicism Seminar reconvenes this evening when we welcome Dr Chiara Franceschini from the Warburg Institute to speak about her research into the history of limbo. Chiara will be examining notions of inclusion and exclusion from Christian society relating to baptism and conceptions of the afterlife, drawing on several case studies from her compelling research.

Details:   5pm, Tues 14 May  — Radcliffe Humanities Building, Woodstock Rd.

Trinity Term Seminar

The programme for our Trinity Term interdisciplinary seminar is now available: seminar TT2013

We will open on Tuesday 23 April (1st week) at 5pm. Please join us in the seminar room of the Radcliffe Humanities Building to hear DR JOSHUA TEPLITSKY introduce his research on Jews and Jesuits in early-modern Prague.


Please also put 14 May, 21 May, and 4 June in your diaries!

– 14 May: Dr Chiara Franeschini (Warburg)  – A History of Limbo: Visual and Material Sources, 1400-1600

– 21 May: Dr Caroline Bowden (Queen Mary, London) – Medicine and Health Care in the English Convents in Exile: Conventual Sources and Their Creators

– 4 June: Prof. Christopher Carlsmith (MA-Lowell) – Nicolò Cologno: A Sixteenth-Century Schoolmaster in the Venetian Republic