The Tudor monarchy's monopoly of printing-which had peaked in the 1530s when Thomas Cromwell sponsored writers to promote both the royal supremacy as well as the corresponding obligation of political obedience-ended at least temporarily with the accession of Mary Tudor. This watershed in the history of English printing happened largely because many foreign printers left London after Edward VI's death for the continent.1 The relatively little Catholic propaganda printed during Mary's reign has been criticized as pedestrian and mediocre. For example, it has been suggested that Protestants, many of whom were continental exiles with a broad, humanist education, wrote more convincing, more entertaining pieces than did her own propagandists.2
If one judges the success of these Catholic pamphleteers by tangible results (i.e. the success that Mary had in implementing her major policies), then it would appear that her propaganda campaign was indeed less than a resounding triumph. Certainly no pamphleteer in her service was as talented as Thomas More; but, then, few in history were. The apparent lack of literary creativity during her reign 3 may help explain why scholars have almost always tended to emphasize the contributions of Protestant exiles such as John Ponet, John Knox, and Christopher Goodman, and to overlook those of Catholic writers, even notable ones such as John Christopherson.4
Another reason why Protestant pamphleteers have been given so much more attention than their Catholic opponents is that Protestantism, and not Roman Catholicism, ultimately prevailed as the foundation of the Church of England. Mary's reign, in this context, seems little more than a failed attempt to turn back the clock; her writers were defenders of a lost cause. In another context, however, Mary's writers may well have had talent-talent that could have been recognized if they had been writing for a successful enterprise. Nevertheless, because Catholicism failed to become the state religion in England, they did not receive notoriety or other such spoils and were thus relegated to historical obscurity.
The purpose of this essay, hence, is to analyze some of the key writings from the period in order to determine whether it is fair and accurate to argue, as some have, that Protestants were "better" propagandists than their Catholic counterparts. Obviously, the Protestant side in England emerged victorious, but that victory itself does not necessarily prove that Protestant writers produced "effective" controversialist literature that was "better" than that of their opponents.
Some might say that this essay is attempting an impossible taskestablishing and applying objective standards to the analysis of what is an inherently subjective field: propaganda. Determining which sixteenth-century polemical writers did the better job, some critics might say, would be as pointless as debating whether Michelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci was the "more talented" Italian Renaissance artist, or whether Erasmus or Thomas More wrote "better" satire. Such skepticism, however understandable, is challenged by decades of scholarship. Particularly since the end of the Second World War, the study of what precisely makes propaganda persuasive has evolved into a science. Extensive research in the fields of psychology, sociology, the social sciences, rhetoric, and history has revealed that some of the most effective devices have been employed for centuries. Hence, it is possible to judge the potential effectiveness of propaganda. For example, scholars at Columbia University have isolated such techniques as the "plain folks" method, by which the propagandist argues that his or her ideas are good because they are held by the common people, and the "glittering generality," by which one associates a certain new idea with a widely accepted, virtuous ideal. According to the theory of cognitive consistency, one way to change behavior or attitudes is …