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Presented By: The College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

Professor Susan Juster, The Rhys Isaac Collegiate Professorship in History, Inaugural Lecture

"Mumbling Masses and Jumbling Beads": Finding Catholics in Early America

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How do we find people in the past who don't want to be found? Catholicism in post-Reformation England was a fugitive faith. In the century before the first colonial settlements were established in North America in the early 1600s, English Catholics had lived a twilight existence scarcely visible in the archives. Their faith driven underground, their priests hunted down and executed, their children taken away from them and their dead denied Christian burial, men and women who adhered to the old faith learned to live in the shadows. Overseas migration changed this equation, offering an environment that was freer in some respects ((law and coercive institutions were underdeveloped in the first century of settlement) and more repressive in others (persistent imperial war and emerging racial codes ensnared Catholics whose loyalty and ethnic identity were always suspect). This talk explores some of the evidence available to historians who seek to understand the world colonial Catholics made for themselves, drawing examples from both textual and material sources. My aim is to show how historians use the fragments left to them by the vagaries of time and preservation to reconstruct the lives of men and women who inhabited the threshold between the medieval and the modern world.

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