The nineteenth century saw a lengthy and unusually intense conflict between religion and national politics over public space. The disputes inevitably coloured the politics of the nineteenth century, and defined to a large extent the boundaries of political division. But why were they so ferocious? And what were the battles really about? Is it true that society and state became less religious? Who spoke for the people? What effect did the liberal-Catholic conflict have on the transition to democracy? Using case-studies of nations in both Europe and Latin America the contributors to this unusual comparative volume attempt to answer these and other questions from a revisionist and empirical viewpoint incorporating the latest research and recasting the debate in the light of recent discussions about modernity. A substantial introduction sketches the vital issues and the major conclusions and takes stock of the debate and where it is leading.