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The priest hunters Buvyer, Julie


This paper is an examination of the lives of men employed by the Elizabethan government in the persecution of Catholics. They have received only fleeting attention in Tudor historiography, and that has been one-dimensional. This paper was written in the expectation that a detailed study would yield an explanation for the priest hunters' actions, and contribute something toward our knowledge of the Elizabethan attitude toward Roman Catholicism. When I researched this paper, I paid particular attention to the priest hunters' own correspondence and publications, contained in the calendars of state papers for the reign and the microfilm series of English books published prior to 1640. I was also able to examine a number of the original documents held in the Public Record Office, London. As well, I examined the correspondence of other public figures, some Jesuit memoirs, and the standard secondary works. I reached several conclusions. The first and earliest was that the priest hunters were part of an extensive network, the the levels of which were interdependent. Hence, I made the decision to study examples at each level in order to have a complete picture. The second conclusion was that the priest hunters had clear reasons for their actions, ranging from coercion to deeply held religious and political convictions. The third was that a surprising number of priest hunters had Roman Catholic backgrounds. And the fourth was that in attempting to justify their actions, the priest hunters sparked a blaze of religious controversy which has not yet abated in Tudor historiography. For this reason alone, they are historically important.

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