James E. Handley and the Scottish Catholic Historical Association
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Over 20 years after Malcolm Hay made his controversial assessment of Scottish ecclesiastical history and 15 years after Compton Mackenzie’s Catholicism and Scotland, Catholic scholars and activists returned to the vexing issues of Catholicism, history and national identity. The inspiration came from an unusual source – the reinvigorated Catholic Action movement of the post-war years. In 1949 as part of the annual weekend conference of the Edinburgh Newman Circle, with members from all over Scotland including a large contingent from the Glasgow Newman Circle, Dr James Edmund Handley (Brother Clare FMS), the headmaster of St Mungo’s Academy in Glasgow and the author of two volumes on the Irish in Scotland was invited to speak. Handley’s conference paper was entitled ‘The Position of Catholics in Social and Economic History’. In the paper, Handley conducted a survey of the state of the broad Scottish historical profession and attitudes of both Catholics and non-Catholics to researching the hidden Catholic history of Scotland. Unlike Major Hay, Handley was to cast his net wide across disciplines within history and also across the border to England in his search to find a methodological and intellectual structure which could open up the Catholic experience to greater scrutiny and understanding. However, like Hay, Brother Clare was concerned with the shortcomings of the practice of Scottish history, but argued at the same time that Catholics could still carve a niche in the profession.