2018 John Coffin Memorial Annual Irish Studies Lecture

2018 John Coffin Memorial Annual Irish Studies Lecture
31 May 2018, 6.00pm - 8.00pm
The Chancellor's Hall, First Floor, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Professor Ian McBride, Oxford University

The Struggle for Ireland's Soul: Catholics under the Penal Laws

The persecution suffered by Irish Catholics during the ‘Penal Times’ ranks alongside the Great Famine and the Easter Rising as one of the central components of the Irish national story.  Following the final defeat of the Catholic nobility and gentry by William III’s forces in 1689-91, a massive programme of social and cultural engineering was conceived.  The Protestant ruling class embarked upon a great experiment: to legislate the religion of an entire people out of existence.  Remarkably, however, there is no systematic study of how the eighteenth-century penal code was implemented, or how it reshaped Catholic Ireland.   The most obvious explanation for this silence is that the maintenance of a underground church in defiance of the state did not facilitate the keeping of regular records.  To find solutions to this problem, historians must travel to Rome, where they will discover exceptionally rich archives never properly exploited by Irish scholars.  Thousands of letters from Ireland survive in the Vatican, in Propaganda Fide, and the Irish colleges.  They enable us to understand how the Irish priesthood survived, and they offer rare glimpses of the religious experiences of ordinary people.  More surprisingly, they reveal how the Roman authorities and their allies in the continental colleges sought to reform a national church that they sometimes regarded with hostility and despair.

The event will be followed by a wine reception hosted by the Irish Embassy.

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