God's Irishmen: Theological Debates in Cromwellian Ireland

God's Irishmen: Theological Debates in Cromwellian Ireland

God's Irishmen: Theological Debates in Cromwellian Ireland

God's Irishmen: Theological Debates in Cromwellian Ireland

Synopsis

Conflicts between protestants and Catholics intensified as the Cromwellian invasion of 1649 inflamed the blood-soaked antagonism between the English and Irish. In the ensuing decade, half of Ireland's landmass was confiscated while thousands of natives were shipped overseas - all in a bid toprovide safety for English protestants and bring revenge upon the Irish for their rebellion in 1641. Centuries later, these old wounds linger in Irish political and cultural discussion. In his new book, Crawford Gribben reconsiders the traditional reading of the failed Cromwellian invasion as hereflects on the invaders' fractured mental world. As a tiny minority facing constant military threat, Cromwellian protestants in Ireland clashed over theological issues such as conversion, baptism, church government, miraculous signs, and the role of women. Protestant groups regularly invoked the language of the "Antichrist," but used the termmore often against each other than against the Catholics who surrounded them. Intra-protestant feuds splintered the Cromwellian party. Competing quests for religious dominance created instability at the heart of the administration, causing its eventual defeat. Gribben reconstructs these theologicaldebates within their social and political contexts and provides a fascinating account of the religious infighting, instability, and division that tore the movement apart. Providing a close and informed analysis of the relatively few texts that survive from the period, Gribben addresses the question that has dominated discussion of this period: whether the protestants' small numbers, sectarian divisions and seemingly beleaguered situation produced an idiosyncratictheology and a failed political campaign.

Excerpt

This book marks a return to a theological environment I first described in The puritan millennium: Literature and theology, 1550–1682. The world of John Rogers—radical preacher, republican, and emerging Fifth Monarchist—has been an intriguing background to a number of projects I have completed since my work on the seventeenth century began. Rogers has attracted other writers, though they tend not to discuss his importance in the context of Cromwellian Ireland. This book is therefore an attempt to contextualize some of the conclusions that have been offered by colleagues in literary studies, whose interest in Rogers’s conversion narratives has not always been sensitive to the wider theological debates of the period, and to challenge some of the conclusions of historians, who have explored that context but tend sometimes to downplay the intensely fissiparous environment of the cultures of Cromwellian Ireland. With all other scholars of the period, I record my debt to indispensable work by Toby Barnard, not least his seminal Cromwellian Ireland (1975), and to two older texts whose contribution goes far beyond the access they provide to documents destroyed in 1922: Robert Dunlop’s Ireland under the Commonwealth (1913) and St. John D. Seymour’s The Puritans in Ireland, 1647–1661 (1921). Unless otherwise noted, all texts listed in the bibliography have been published in London.

Most of the research for this book was carried out during my appointment as research fellow in the Centre for Irish-Scottish Studies, Trinity College, Dublin. My four years in the Centre were . . .

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