Catholicism, Identity and Politics in the Age of Enlightenment: The Life and Career of Sir Thomas Gascoigne, 1745-1810

By Strangeman, Christopher | The Catholic Historical Review, Spring 2017 | Go to article overview

Catholicism, Identity and Politics in the Age of Enlightenment: The Life and Career of Sir Thomas Gascoigne, 1745-1810


Strangeman, Christopher, The Catholic Historical Review


Catholicism, Identity and Politics in the Age of Enlightenment: The Life and Career of Sir Thomas Gascoigne, 1745-1810. By Alexander Lock. [Studies in Modern British Religious History, Volume 34.] (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell Press. 2016. Pp. x, 270. ?60.00. ISBN 978-1-78327-132-0.)

Alexander Lock's Catholicism, Identity and Politics in the Age of Enlightenment is a study of one particular English Catholic-Sir Thomas Gascoigne (1745-1810)-and how he can be seen as an example of the intersections of the Enlightenment and English Catholicism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Lock, the Curator of Modern Historical Manuscripts at the British Library, makes interesting contributions in this work to two important areas of recent historiography-the construction and manifestation of English Catholicism at a time during which the penal laws were still in place and of a distinct English national identity. It is an attractive book with a wonderful bibliography. In some ways, it serves as a complementary study to Gabriel Glickman's The English Catholic Community, 1688-1745 (2009); while Glickman covered the period of the perceived Jacobite threat, Lock focuses on the later eighteenth century when English Catholics were slowly making inroads into elite social and political circles.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section (chapters 1 and 2) deals with Gascoigne's years abroad, through which he received a liberal education and took Grand Tours during which he met with different European heads of state. This is the most interesting and powerful section of the book, and Lock places his argument-about how the Enlightenment influenced English Catholic thought and behavior-within the work of earlier scholars, such as J. C. H. Aveling, Joseph Chinnici, and the aforementioned Glickman. However, while Lock makes sure to explain what he means by liberal, he does not fully explain what he means by Enlightenment; it seems as though he equates the two-liberal and Enlightenment-which is problematic considering the demonstrated diversities of the Enlightenment. Lock also argues that Gascoigne's experiences with fellow English travelers on the Grand Tour highlight how equating an English identity with anti-Catholicism can be very misleading. …

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