25 years ago, in a provocative reconsideration of English political and social history, English Society 1688–1832, J. C. D.
This is a book which could very easily slip under the radar of most historians. Even had they noticed the title, and had their curiosity piqued by the sub-title, after checking the academic discipline of the author (Julian Rivers is Professor of Jurisprudence at Bristol University) many might well have decided that this book was probably of no professional interest to them.
This book uses the story of one family and its legal battles to uncover relationships between religion, race, gender, identity, and personal law in south India in the first half of the 19th century. Matthew Abrahams was an Indian Roman Catholic of lowly background but increasing wealth.
In 1859, after decades of religious turmoil in Europe, the Vatican was faced with shocking allegations against one of its convents in Rome. Princess Katharina Von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a German princess, claimed that the convent she had entered, Sant’ Ambrogio, practised a forbidden cult, and that the novice mistress, Maria Luisa had tried to kill her by poisoning.
The history of religious toleration during the early modern period has been revitalised over the past decade. Scholars such as Alexandra Walsham and Benjamin Kaplan have shown that early modern society did not view toleration as the social virtue that was later espoused by enlightenment thinkers.