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Title: "A free and Protestant people"? : the campaign for the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, 1786-1828
Author: Walker, Peter
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2010
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Protestant Dissenters launched a campaign for Test Act repeal in 1786 that encountered strong opposition. Half a century later a second campaign inconspicuously secured repeal whilst the established Church was preoccupied with the problem of Catholic emancipation. Historians have examined the political narrative of both campaigns and the theories of toleration propounded by some Dissenters. However, little attention has been paid to the symbolic importance of the Test Acts, which Dissenters considered as badges of their exclusion from national citizenship. This thesis will examine the language of the repeal campaigns as a window into wider notions of citizenship and national identity. The resultant picture of Dissenters' identities and the larger national identities that they contested makes it possible to problematise and refine Linda Colley's Britons: Forging the Nation, which expounds a pan-Protestant, anti-Catholic, British national identity. Protestantism and anti-Catholicism were indeed central to the language of the debate, but this language marginalised Dissenters as often as it included them. Several Dissenters therefore united with a parallel Catholic campaign for toleration, whilst very few united with their fellow-Protestant Churchmen against the Catholic threat. The Dissenters' strategies reveal the ambiguity of their relationship to the nation: they were usually seen by Churchmen as marginalised or subordinate though less so than the Catholics. Moreover, overlooked divisions between evangelical and old Dissent, and between Trinitarian and Unitarian Dissent, led different sections of Dissent to pursue different strategies according to their perception amongst Churchmen. Notions of national identity and citizenship were changing in this period, particularly as a result of the French Revolution and wars. Both Test Act repeal and Catholic emancipation may be situated within long-term processes of state-building and nation-building. Older notions of national identity endured to a greater extent than has been recognised, but adapted to these processes by becoming more inclusive and assimilative. Though Test Act repeal and Catholic emancipation granted Dissenters and Catholics similar rights, because of the enduring importance of Protestantism to British national identity Test Act repeal signified Dissent's integration into the nation in a way that Catholic emancipation did not for Catholics.
Supervisor: Skinner, Simon Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Eighteenth-Century Britain and Europe ; Modern Britain and Europe ; Religious Toleration ; National Identity