This study examines the anti-Protestantism of nineteenth-century Britain. Particular attention is given to hostile reconstructions of the Reformation as they appeared in the periodical literature. Victorian and pre-Victorian anti-Protestants rejected the religion of Protestantism as William Chillingworth defined it: 'the Bible and the Bible only', and they demonstrated their dislike of Bible-only religion by producing 'unholy' histories of the reformers and their times. They did this, not only in response to theological and ecclesiastical opportunities and threats, but also in efforts to influence the results of contemporary political, social, moral, intellectual, and legal debates.
Many different parties within Victorian society wrote disparagingly of the Reformation. For this reason, bitterly opposed groups and individuals found themselves sharing a common stock of anti-Protestant polemic against a common foe. Anti-Protestants lurked within the high and broad church factions of the national church, and they flourished among dissenting groups of Roman Catholics, Unitarians, theists and agnostics. The 'infidel' anti-Protestants attempted to subordinate the scriptures to science and reason, while 'catholic' writers promoted ecclesiastical authority over that of the Bible. By the end of the century, propositions that had once been regarded as outrageous anti-Protestantism could go virtually unchallenged in the monthly and quarterly reviews.
The relationship between the Reformation, the Bible, and the Protestant catchcry, 'The Bible and the Bible only', is traced through the writing of ecclesiastics and infidels as controversies over authority and truth disquieted traditional thinking about scriptural infallibility. In these debates, anti-Protestant attacks upon the Reformation and reformers mirrored and paralleled anti-Catholic rhetoric. This thesis considers the revisionist treatment to which Luther, Calvin, Henry VIII, and Anne Boleyn were subjected. The assumed anti-Protestantism of James Anthony Froude is also re-examined. Froude has been represented as an anti-Catholic who also rejected Protestant Christianity. This thesis attempts to show that Froude was friendlier to Bible-only Protestantism than he appeared to be.