Britain, Hanover and the Protestant Interest, 1688-1756

By Doll, Peter | Anglican and Episcopal History, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Britain, Hanover and the Protestant Interest, 1688-1756


Doll, Peter, Anglican and Episcopal History


Britain, Hanover and the Protestant Interest, 1688-1756. By Andrew C. Thompson. (Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: The Boydell Press, 2006, Pp. xii + 267, $85.00.)

It has been some twenty-five years since Jonathan Clark first set his revisionist Tory cat among the Whig pigeons of eighteenth-century historiography with the publication of English Society 1688-1832 (1985). His fierce rejection of the teleological assumptions (so compatible with those of post-war Modernism) of Whig historians who treated religion as a passing irrelevance and his confident placing of religion - particularly that of the established Church of England - at the center of national life has had an abiding impact on the historical scene. There are still corners, however, to which revisionism has not penetrated, and diplomatic history has been one of them.

The Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 has been treated as bringing to an end "wars of religion" and therefore to the significance of religion in the political realm. In Andrew Thompson's words, the assumptions that prevailed were that religion, as in the case of Christendom, was both static and monolithic. With the destruction of Christendom in the reformation, the state was the victor over the church. Hence Christians were disempowered. In response, Thompson explores the significance of the "protestant interest" to the united monarchy of the United Kingdom first with the Netherlands and then with Hanover.

It is simplistic to argue, he says, that foreign policy was based solely on economic and military interests; it was also about ideas, and religion remained central to national self-understanding. The protestant identity which united Britain to Holland and Hanover was understood as a counter-balance to the papist states of Austria, France, and Spain. The universal claims of Roman Catholicism had a natural counterpart in the pretensions to "universal monarchy" on the part of these powers. …

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