For English Catholics, the years from 1850 to 1900 were stirring times.
Emerging from a long period of social obscurity, they became confident that a 'Second Spring' would bring them to a position of moral authority and influence in Victorian England.
Their leaders - Manning and Newman - were figures of the first rank.
Their numbers - boosted by Irish immigration - seemed to herald genuine political strength.
In this lively and well-written study, Dr Quinn examines that confidence and finds it misplaced.
He shows how Catholics frequently misread the political signs.
Attaching themselves sometimes to the Liberals, sometimes to the Tories, they tended to forget that both parties, in their different ways, found it easier to cultivate anti-Catholicism.
At certain times - when the Catholic hierarchy was restored, when the Syllabus of Errors was promulgated, when Gladstone denounced 'Vaticanism' - this anti-Catholicism was virulent.
In calmer days, Catholics were usually regarded with sullen suspicion.
Seeking to examine Catholic political strength, Dr Quinn investigates the careers of leading Catholics such as the Marquis of Ripon and the Duke of Norfolk. He also traces the attitudes of the party leaders, Gladstone and Disraeli especially, to their Catholic followers.
He shows how for some lesser Catholics, denomination was regarded as a reason for personal preferment.
Finally, he demonstrates how, at constituency level, Catholicism was never the electoral force that many claimed it to be.