Excellence in Scholarship and Learning


Fighting the Antichrist

A Cultural History of Anti-Catholicism in Tudor England

Leticia Álvarez-Recio is a Junior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Seville (Spain). Her publications include Rameras de Babilonia. Historia cultural del anti-catolicismo en la Inglaterra Tudor (Salamanca, 2006) and a number of articles and chapters on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature and history. She is a member of a research team that works on the printed history of Middle English verse romances – a project subsidized by a Spanish government grant.

Excerpts from a review of the Spanish edition (Rameras de Babilonia: historia cultural Del anticatolicismo en la Inglaterra Tudor) in Sederi 18 (2008: pp. 181–185), published by Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca

Fighting the Antichrist analyzes the discourse against Catholicism from the breach from Rome in 1534 until the death of Elizabeth I in 1603. Cultural representations of Catholicism were decisive in creating and moulding the perceptions that many Englishmen had of the new Anglican Church and its alleged enemies. Such perceptions were essential not only in promoting policies against English Catholics, but in shaping English national identity.

Anti-Catholic propaganda elaborated a stereotype of the Catholic that converged with other negative cultural types common in the period, such as that of the lazy, lecherous monk, the cruel Spaniard, the seductive and deceitful Jesuit and the Machiavellian schemer (the last three enjoying special popularity in the second half of the Elizabethan period). These stereotypes allowed anti-Catholics to send a clear message to their Protestant countrymen: that Catholicism was a devilish, corrupt foreign power that could undermine the most basic pillars of English society – their Church and State.

Dr Álvarez-Recio explores a wide number of texts of different genres in order to determine their contribution to the aforementioned cultural image of the Roman Catholic Church in England. Special attention is paid to political and doctrinal plays and pamphlets, given their appeal to different social groups and their role in creating a new public opinion. Other kinds of material that are also considered include chronicles and private letters, fragments of royal proclamations, and descriptions of royal entries and coronations. All these texts offer a wide spectrum of responses to the Catholic question and assist in understanding the role of anti-Catholic discourse in royal iconography. Originally published in Spanish by Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, the volume provides an inter-disciplinary approach, addressing issues such as the formation of public opinion, the influence of imperial discourse, and the overriding role of religion in nationalist issues.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-427-7
Hardback Price: £49.95 / $69.95
Release Date: February 2011
Page Extent / Format: 272 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Illustrated: Colour plate section


List of Illustrations


chapter one
Anti-Catholic Discourse during the Reigns of Henry VIII
(1509–1547) and Edward VI (1547–1553)

Crisis of Succession and the Reason of State
From Anticlericalism to Anti-Catholicism: Origins of the Catholic Stereotype

chapter two
Mary I (1553–1558) and the Discourse of Victimhood
The Return to Catholicism and the Spanish Threat
Anti-Catholic Pamphlets: An Admonitory Discourse
Dramatic Literature: The Dark Side of the Reformation

chapter three
Elizabeth I (1558–1579): A Failed Attempt at Reconciliation
The Iconographic Construction of Elizabeth I and its Anti-Catholic Implications
The Quest for Internal Religious Conformity and the European Political Crisis
Responses to the Status Quo: Propaganda and Representation: The Pope’s Renewed Role as Protagonist in Pamphlet Literature
Anti-Catholic Theatre and Doctrinal Problems

chapter four
Elizabeth I (1580–1603): Gloriana and the Victory of Protestantism
The Apogee of the Elizabethan Status Quo
Reformist and Catholic Discourse in the Face of Accusations of Disloyalty
Elizabeth I as Head of European Protestantism
The Triumph of Gloriana
Pamphlet Literature in the Second Phase of Elizabeth’s Reign: The Multiple “Other”
The Society of Jesus
The Spanish Stereotype and the Black Legend
The Imperial Image of Elizabeth I
Anti-Catholic Discourse and the New Theatre
Anti-Catholic Discourse at Court
Anti-Catholic Discourse in Public Theatres
An Example of Anti-Catholic Discourse in the Private Theatre

Epilogue: Nostalgia for Elizabeth and Anti-Catholic Discourse

Recommended Reading

Rameras de Babilonia is the culmination of several years of research in which Leticia Álvarez Recio has studied the articulation of anti-Catholic sentiment in Early Modern England. In this book she approaches the development of this topic throughout the Tudor period, when its most important features and clichés were created and used in a wide variety of discourses. One of the novelties of this study is precisely the type of texts subject to analysis: pamphlets and plays. Disparate though they are in their nature, in their rhetoric, and in the way in which they interact with their audiences, Álvarez Recio manages to demonstrate the connection between them and how they supplement and influence each other in their depiction of anti-Catholic characters.
... The method used by the author in order to make evident the relation of these genres combines diverse approaches: historical, rhetorical, iconographical and doctrinal. On the one hand, the detailed historical introductions to every period covered in the study supply the context the reader needs for a better understanding of the texts; the doctrinal information also serves similar purposes. On the other hand, rhetoric and iconography are not only background knowledge, but also interpretive methods that intend to disclose the devices by which pamphleteers and playwrights changed the meaning and intention of previously used symbology – sometimes even appropriating their opponents’ discourse.
... Álvarez Recio examines the most relevant events of the century for the creation of the anti-Catholic discourse, paying especial attention both to religious circumstances and to political milestones such as the victory over the Spanish Armada – seen by Protestant authors as an expression of God’s support to the Queen. Far from simplifying and reducing the complexity of this type of tests, the book Rameras de Babilonia faces the complexities, inconsistencies and paradoxes of the works under study and tries to explain them as part of the intricacies of the period.
Ana Sáez Hidalgo, University of Valladolid

A welcome addition to the studies of Tudor history and literature. ... The book's greatest strength is Álvarez-Recio's choice of sources. Performative theater and printed pamphlets permit her to present a greater cross section of anti-Catholic discourse. Overall, this work allows for a deeper understanding of the birht pangs of the English Protestant Reformation.
Sixteenth Century Journal

This salient study engages the reader with insight and includes a plethora of useful notes and the necessary catalogs of relevant acts and laws that enforced anti-Catholic strategies.
Religion and the Arts

Reviewed in the Huntington Library Quarterly, vol. 75, no. 4.

Reviewed in the Journal of British Studies, vol. 51, no. 4.

Books can be ordered by phone or online

Ordering in the UK, Europe, Asia, Australasia, South America and Rest of the World

Gazelle Book Services
Direct sales tel.: +44 (0)1524 528500; email:
Web ordering:

Ordering in the United States and Canada
Independent Publishers Group (IPG)
Direct sales tel.: (800) 888-4741
Web ordering:

Bookseller Ordering
Information is provided under the Resources tab.

eBook Ordering
e-Book type availability can be sourced via by book title. Kindle availability is via Amazon .com and sites.