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Catholicism, Kinship and the Public Memory of Sir Thomas More

  • MICHAEL QUESTIER

Abstract

Historians are now particularly aware that kinship had political and social resonances in the early modern period. Historians of English Catholicism in this same period have always stressed that a web of family networks helped to sustain the English Catholic community within its harsh post-Reformation environment. But how exactly did this happen, particularly when Catholicism in England was so diverse, and when Catholics were often deeply divided over key political and religious issues? In this essay I examine how these relationships worked for one significant kinship group, a set of people descended from or related to the Henrician Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More, and thus how they affected Catholicism's political and ecclesial expressions of itself. I argue that in doing this, we can begin not only to reveal how far religious continuity depended on or was influenced by kinship, but also to describe some of the ways in which post-Reformation Catholicism was defined and perceived.

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AAW = Archives of the archdiocese of Westminster; CRS = Catholic Record Society; HMC = Historical Manuscripts Commission. I wish to express my thanks to Dr Peter Marshall, Professor Peter Lake and Professor Conrad Russell for commenting on a previous version of this essay, and particularly to Dr Thomas Freeman for many invaluable references and discussions on this topic.

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Catholicism, Kinship and the Public Memory of Sir Thomas More

  • MICHAEL QUESTIER

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