Oxford University could not escape the political agitation set in motion by the Popish Plot. The scaremongering associated with Titus Oates's discovery of a supposed Catholic conspiracy against the life of Charles II seriously bothered Protestants. No sooner had the anti-Catholic hysteria of the capital invaded Oxford than there was a sharp revulsion of feeling against individual papists. The inbred anti-Catholicism of the nation — never far beneath the surface of Restoration politics — became ever more strident and merciless. The local magistracy made good use of the information collected by Bishop John Fell in his primary visitation of the diocese in 1676. Vice-Chancellor John Nicholas, the trimming warden of New College, was particularly active. His officious conduct in arresting the most harmless of Catholics, such as the poverty-stricken William Joyner, was seen by his critics as a bid to curry favour at Westminster in the hope of attracting preferment.
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