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In the last quarter of the 19th century, as Western power enveloped the globe "in a fit of absence of mind", European politics became world politics. The age of imperialism coincided with the pontificate of Leo XIII. Would the papacy live up to the historical challenge implicit in this new world order and turn itself into "the Director-general of the Humanitarian forces of the world" (in the words of the Protestant journalist W. T. Stead? The internationalisation of the Catholic masses since the middle of the 19th century suggested it could.
In the present volume, an international team of 20 scholars examines the triangle between Vatican diplomacy, public opinion and the international environment. They invite us to reassess the significance of Leo's pontificate: in a time when empires became more than ever the motors of globalisation, the most imperial among the empires of the spirit could not fail to claim its place.
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