English attitudes toward continental Protestants with particular reference to church briefs c.1680-1740
It has long been accepted that the Catholic threat posed by Louis X1V played an important role in English politics from the late seventeenth century onwards. The expansionist politics of Louis and his attempts to eliminate Protestants within his sphere of influence enhanced the sense of a general crisis of Protestantism in Europe. Moreover news of the persecution of foreign Protestants stimulated a great deal of anti-popish sentiment as well as a sense of the need for Protestant solidarity. The purpose of my studies is to explore how the English perceived the persecution of continental Protestants and to analyse what it meant for the English to be involved in various relief programmes for them from c. 1680 to 1740. Accordingly, I have examined the church briefs which were issued to raise contributions for the relief of continental Protestants, and which serve as evidence of Protestant internationalism against the perceived Catholic threat of the day. I have considered the spectrum of views concerning continental Protestants within the Church; in some attitudes evinced by clergymen, there was an element which might be called ecclesiastical imperialism rather than internationalism. At the same time I have examined laymen's attitudes; this investigation of the activities of the SPCK, one of the most influential voluntary societies of the day, which was closely concerned with continental Protestants, fulfills this purpose. In the eighteenth century the Church of England became more reluctant to get involved with the foreign Protestants and applications from them for fund raising tended to fail to obtain support. Nevertheless when an application for a brief was turned down, the SPCK in some cases stepped in, until the time came when its Protestant internationalism, inherited from the age of Louis XIV, also faded away.