British Catholic Policy in Eighteenth-Century Ireland and Quebec

Type of resource
British Catholic Policy in Eighteenth-Century Ireland and Quebec
The author undertakes a comparative historical analysis of three pieces of British Catholic legislation -- the Treaty of Limerick ratification bill (1697), the Quebec Act (1774) and the Irish Catholic Relief Act (1778) -- to clarify the processes leading to these policy outcomes and show how the outcomes were associated with the general trend toward Catholic relief in the British empire during the eighteenth century. She makes use of the institutional approach, a perspective that allows for much more detailed analyses of policy events and long-term social transformations than are possible using traditional sociological approaches to state power and social change. In each case, the most important formal (constitutional principles, legal statutes) and informal (norms, established procedures) institutions governing the negotiation of the policy are identified, and the circumstances that gave rise to them and helped to institutionalise them are assessed. The author then shows how these institutions structured each policy-making process by establishing the "rules" individuals participating in the process had to follow, or take into account, during policy negotiations. By providing the structural framework within which each policy process took place, she demonstrates how institutions shaped the way in which human action and contingency came together to encourage the emergence of a particular measure. She argues that the indirect influence of institutions on policy outcomes helps to explain variations in Catholic legislation over time and across territories. More than this, her analyses of each policy event required by the institutional approach shows that the factors usually used to explain the movement toward Catholic relief -- the gradual growth of more tolerant attitudes among British elites, or considerations concerning military security or international diplomacy -- can misrepresent the movement. The author's analysis reveals that, although the Quebec Act and the Irish Catholic Relief Act were linked, the nature of those connections was much less straightforward than these explanations suggest. The result shows that the movement toward Catholic relief was not driven by any one particular factor or force, but was the accumulation of the many complex, and largely unpredictable, outcomes of the specific events that comprised the transformation.
PhD dissertation
University of Western Ontario
London, ON
Stanbridge, Karen A. “British Catholic Policy in Eighteenth-Century Ireland and Quebec.” PhD dissertation, University of Western Ontario, 1998.
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