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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)


The list below shows Durham University research staff who are members of IMEMS. Click the member's name to see a more detailed biography and department.

We also welcome anyone from outside the University with an interest in our work to join. Membership is free of charge. You will receive invitations to our programme of events, with a weekly emails digest about what is happening in the Insitute and further afield. To join IMEMS contact:

Publication details for Professor Geoffrey Scarre

Scarre, Geoffrey (2016). Fallible infallibility? Gladstone's anti-Vatican pamphlets in the light of Mill's On Liberty. Victorian Literature and Culture 44(02): 223-237.

Author(s) from Durham


When W. E. Gladstone published in November 1874 his spirited pamphlet The Vatican Decrees in their Bearing on Civil Allegiance: A Political Expostulation, he seems to have taken many people by surprise. In its issue of the 21st of that month, Punch printed a cartoon, “An Unexpected Cut” (Figure 1) which portrayed the “Hawarden woodcutter” laying an axe to the stout trunk of a tree labelled “Papal Infallibility,” under the bemused gaze of Mr Punch. To the latter's remark “We didn't expect to find you cutting at that tree, you know,” the ex-Prime Minister dourly retorts: “All right, Mr Punch! I choose my own Trees, and my own Time!” In Gladstone's view, the time was ripe to take a stand against the recent pretensions of the Roman Catholic Church, under the leadership of its aging pontiff Pius IX, to exercise an absolute and unchallengeable authority over the consciences and actions of Catholics.