Journal of Historical Political Economy > Vol 4 > Issue 1

Purging the Pulpit: The Logic of Religious Elite Removals in the Glorious Revolution

Benjamin Broman, Department of Political Science, Duke University, USA,
Suggested Citation
Benjamin Broman (2024), "Purging the Pulpit: The Logic of Religious Elite Removals in the Glorious Revolution", Journal of Historical Political Economy: Vol. 4: No. 1, pp 59-87.

Publication Date: 21 May 2024
© 2024 B. Broman
Comparative politics,  Political history,  Religion and politics
ReligionlegitimacypurgesGlorious Revolution


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In this article:
Social Elites and the Logic of Purges 
Case: The Glorious Revolution 
Data and Empirical Evidence 


Rulers often face hostility from social elites, such as religious leaders, who have influence over popular perceptions of legitimacy. One strategy rulers use to address this is to purge incumbents and replace them with loyalists. However, purging influential public-facing figures risks provoking popular backlash. How do rulers balance the benefits of transforming the elite class against potential unrest? This paper examines a purge of religious leaders in Scotland carried out by William of Orange after the Glorious Revolution, using novel data on the universe of incumbent ministers paired with religious, economic, and political measures. The results indicate William purged incumbent religious leaders opportunistically, targeting less experienced ministers in agriculturally productive regions where he had strong popular backing. He avoided purging where his support was weaker, even of unaligned elites. The results suggest that rulers face constraints when confronting influential legitimating elites due to potential popular backlash.