The designation seems to date from 1838 at the University of Oxford toward the beginning of the movement centered on restoring the Caroline Divines' 17th-century High Church ideals through a Catholic revival in the Church of England (Nockles, P.1994:270). Catholic Anglicanism professes a high doctrine of the Church and Sacraments, ascribes great significance to the apostolic succession (meaning an episcopal lineage reaching back to the apostles), argues for the Anglican Confession's clear-cut historical continuity with the early Church in the first centuries of the Christian era, and, finally, defends the crucial autonomy of the Church from any undue interference of the State.
Toward the end of the late 1820s into the early 1830s, Oriel College in Oxford harbored a number of quite erudite young fellows whose earnest concerns about the shortcomings of the 19th-century Church of England led them to unite with each other together with a slightly-older priest and professor of poetry at the college, John Keble, in commitment to renewal of the church (Chadwick, O.1990:135). On 14 July 1833 at Oxford, John Keble preached the Assize Sermon, officially directed to the judges and officers of the civil and criminal courts at the outset of a new session or assize (Cross, F. L. and Livingstone, E.A.1997:1205). The sermon entitled National Apostasy virtually indicted the English nation for slighting God by trying to run the Church as a mere branch of the government, rather than respect its mission as an emissary of God, independent of the legislative interference of a parliament composed of Anglican laymen (Reed, J.S.1996:8).
Keble's delivery provoked a national uproar, marking a significant juncture in the erstwhile beginnings of the spiritual renewal known as the Oxford or Tractarian Movement - Tractarian, since the movement was to be further energized by a series of ninety Tracts, in leaflets as well as much lengthier treatises or catenae, published over the course of the next eight years (Reed, J.S.1996:8). Oriel was the highly intellectual College of the Anglican-operated University of Oxford which prepared the vast majority of clergy to serve in the Church of England. John Henry Newman, Vicar of the University Church, Richard Hurrell Froude, a junior fellow of Oriel, and William Palmer, a fellow of Worcester, joined with the aforementioned priest and professor, John Keble, to follow up his clearly-provocative challenge to the status quo with a succession of Tracts for the Times (Herring, G. 2002:25).
Several historical factors contributed to the movement's immediate popularity and growth. In the wake of the Industrial Revolution, the Church in the 19th Century faced serious problems over the emergence of wretched pockets of urban poverty, as well as increasingly cavalier attitudes toward the faith in the face of secular perspectives on human advancement (Scudder, V.D. 1898). In the field of social justice, the Tractarian leaders thoroughly repudiated any compartmentalizing of spirituality and conceived of religion as asserting dominion over the whole of life. In the name of the Catholic faith, they roundly condemned the veritable worship of material things that came in as a by-product of the Industrial Revolution. (Kenyon, R.1933:).
The steady weakening of Church life and the spread of Liberalism in theology prompted serious worries among the English clergy. More immediately, a threat to Anglican identity emerged from the abrupt removal of long-standing criteria for service in state office and the repeal the last of the Penal Laws with discriminatory practices (Cross, F. L.