Document Type

Presentation - Panelist


History & Political Studies

Date of Activity

Summer 6-2021


The debate over whether to tolerate Roman Catholics in England, and what any such toleration should look like, was especially lively after the Interregnum. The Act of Toleration did not, of course, include Roman Catholics, though there was widespread de facto freedom of worship for them after 1688. The scholarship of this conversation about toleration and its context is primarily rooted in conversations about political theology, the development of liberalism, and state formation. This paper begins and investigation into the ways in which travel observations and cultural comparisons rooted in international tourism might have shaped the views of English men and women regarding political tolerance of religious difference.

The Netherlands was frequently a point of contrast for those arguing in favor of toleration, while France and Spain served to show how dangerous it would be to allow Catholics to have widespread perchance within England, Scotland and Wales. From time to time Ireland was even brought into the conversation, especially by William Petty. Experiences in Rome shaped some of the protagonists in this debate, for better or for worse. In this paper, I attempt to tease out the ways in which personal experience was parlayed as a legitimate epistemology as the basis for an argument about toleration. Travel provided authority for the writer, as well as the context in which some of their ideas had been shaped. It has long been understood how identity is formed in contrast to an “Other,” but tourists are often looking for what they admire or have in common with their hosts. This sort of sympathetic cultural experience was just as much part of the toleration debate as was the negative contrast.