This is a brief highly readable history of the Catholic experience in British America, which shaped the development of the colonies and the nascent republic in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Historian Robert Emmett Curran begins his account with the English reformation, which helps us to understand the Catholic exodus from England, Ireland, and Scotland that took place over the nearly two centuries that constitute the colonial period. The deeply rooted English understanding of Catholics as enemies of the political and religious values at the heart of British tradition, ironically acted as a catalyst for the emergence of a Catholic republican movement that was a critical factor in the decision of a strong majority of American Catholics in 1775 to support the cause for independence.
Papist Devils utilises archival material, newspapers, and other contemporary records in addition to a broad array of general histories, monographs, and dissertations dealing with the British Atlantic world. The unprecedentedly broad scope of this study, which encompasses not only the thirteen colonies that took up arms against Britain in 1775, but also those in the maritime provinces of Canada as well as the ones in the West Indies, constitutes a unique coverage of the British Catholic colonial experience, as does the extension of the colonial period through the American Revolution, which was its logical denouement.