Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, This collection of essays, a product of a symposium held at University College Dublin in April , seeks to challenge the widely held assumption that sectarianism has been the default position of Irish Christians ever since the sixteenth century.
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This has become a truism despite the fact that the concept of sectarianism is seriously undertheorized and usually implies little more than mutual bigotry between Catholics and Protestants. To further the discussion of this central issue in Irish history, this collection examines the emergence of separate confessional structures and mentalities in the early modern period, in effect the decades between and Though the focus is on rivalry and confessional violence, examples are given of cooperation, coexistence, and pragmatism in areas such as the use of sacraments, education, and the writing of history.
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While articulating a conventional late medieval piety, the bardic poets were focused primarily on the preservation of Gaelic political and social traditions.
And in a colorful account of early seventeenth-century Drogheda, Brian Jackson explains how a dispute among the Catholic clergy there raised searching questions about rights of property and jurisdiction in the milieu of the Tridentine renewal. In his concluding reflection, John Morrill stimulatingly aerates the thematic content of the book, suggesting his own chronology for the Catholic response to the Reformation.
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He is rightly warm in his welcome for this contextualizing of early modern Irish religious history within British archipelagic and European continental historiography. Irish Colleges had been established in many countries in Catholic Europe for the training of Irish Catholic priests and the education of the Irish Catholic gentry. Finally, the printing press , which had played a major role in disseminating Protestant ideas in Europe, came to Ireland very late. From the midth and into the early 17th century, crown governments carried out a policy of colonisation known as Plantations.
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Scottish and English Protestants were sent as colonists to the provinces of Munster , Ulster and the counties of Laois and Offaly see also Plantations of Ireland. The largest of these projects, the Plantation of Ulster , had settled up to 80, English and Scots in the north of Ireland by The so-called Ulster Scots were predominantly Presbyterian , which distinguished them from the Anglican English colonists. These settlers, who had a British and Protestant identity, would form the ruling class of future British administrations in Ireland.
A series of Penal Laws discriminated against all Christian faiths other than the established Anglican Church of Ireland. The principal victims of these laws were Roman Catholics and also, from the late 17th century on, adherents of Presbyterianism. From , Catholics were barred from public office and from serving in the army. In , the constituencies of the Irish Parliament were altered so that Protestants might form the majority of — in any given vote in the Irish House of Commons. The Catholic majority in the Irish House of Lords persisted until the Patriot Parliament of , with the exception of the Commonwealth period — In the early years of the 17th century, it looked possible for a time that, because of immigration of English and Scottish settlers, Ireland could be peacefully integrated into British society.
However, this was prevented by the continued discrimination by the English authorities against Irish Catholics on religious grounds.
These groups were historically antagonistic, with English settled areas such as the Pale around Dublin , south Wexford , and other walled towns being fortified against the rural Gaelic clans. However, by the 17th century, the cultural divide between these groups, especially at elite social levels, was declining.
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For example, most Old English lords not only spoke the Gaelic language , but extensively patronised Irish poetry and music. Intermarriage was also common. Moreover, in the wake of the Elizabethan conquest, the native population became defined by their shared religion, Roman Catholicism , in distinction to the new Protestant British settlers and the officially Protestant British government of Ireland.
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During the decades in between the end of the Elizabethan wars of conquest in and the outbreak of rebellion in , Irish Catholics felt themselves to be increasingly threatened by and discriminated against by the English government of Ireland. Most of the Irish upper classes, however, were not ideologically opposed to the sovereignty of the King of England over Ireland, but wanted to be full subjects of the triple Stuart monarchy and maintain their pre-eminent position in Irish society. This was prevented by their religious dissidence and the threat posed to them by the extension of the Plantations.
The Protestant settler-dominated Government of Ireland tried to confiscate more land from the native landowners by questioning their medieval land titles and as punishment for non-attendance at Protestant services.follow link
In response, Irish Catholics appealed directly to the King, first to James I and then Charles I , for full rights as subjects and toleration of their religion: a programme known as The Graces. On several occasions, the Monarchs appeared to have reached an agreement with them, granting their demands in return for raising taxes. However, Irish Catholics were disappointed when, on paying the increased levies, the King postponed the implementation of their demands. What was more, by the late s, Thomas Wentworth , Charles's representative in Ireland, was proposing further widespread confiscations of native land to break the power of the Irish Catholic upper classes.
It is likely that this would eventually have provoked armed resistance from Irish Catholics at some point, but the actual rebellion was sparked by a political crisis in Scotland and England that led to civil war in the three Kingdoms. The fifty years from to saw two catastrophic periods of civil war in Ireland —53 and —91, which killed hundreds of thousands of people and left others in permanent exile.
The wars, which pitted Irish Catholics against British forces and Protestant settlers, ended in the almost complete dispossession of the Catholic landed elite. In the midth century, Ireland was convulsed by eleven years of warfare , beginning with the Rebellion of , when Irish Catholics, threatened by expanding power of the anti-Catholic English Parliament and Scottish Covenanters at the expense of the King , rebelled against English and Protestant domination. In some respects, the rebellion was the end product of the long term alienation of Irish Catholics with English policies in Ireland.
However, it was sparked off by the fear of impending civil war in the British Isles as a whole. The rebellion was marked by a number of massacres of Protestant settlers , particularly in Ulster, an event which scarred communal relations in Ireland for centuries afterwards. As a result of the outbreak of the English Civil War in , no English troops were available to put down the uprising and the rebels were left in control of most of Ireland.
The Catholic majority briefly ruled the country as Confederate Ireland — during the subsequent Wars of the Three Kingdoms in Britain and Ireland. The Confederate regime allied themselves with Charles I and the English Royalists, though they did not sign a formal treaty with them until However, the Royalists were defeated by the Parliamentarians , Charles I was executed and Oliver Cromwell re-conquered Ireland in — on behalf of the English Commonwealth.
The Cromwellian conquest of Ireland was marked by atrocities, such as the massacre of the Royalist garrison at the Siege of Drogheda in