A Nation of Beggars? Priests, People, and Politics in Famine Ireland, 1846-1852

A Nation of Beggars? Priests, People, and Politics in Famine Ireland, 1846-1852

A Nation of Beggars? Priests, People, and Politics in Famine Ireland, 1846-1852

A Nation of Beggars? Priests, People, and Politics in Famine Ireland, 1846-1852

Synopsis

This is the first full account of the role of the Irish Catholic Church in the Great Famine of 1846 and its aftermath. Kerr shows how the Famine and consequent evictions led to rural violence and assassination and how these years also saw an increase in religious tensions as Protestant Evangelicals made an all-out effort to Protestantize Ireland. His incisive analysis charts the souring of relations between church and state and the destruction of Lord John Russell's dream of bringing a golden age to Ireland.

Excerpt

'It is quite true that landlords in England would not like to be shot like hares and partridges. But neither does any landlord turn out fifty persons at once, and burn their houses over their heads. . . . the murders are atrocious, so are the ejectments.'

(Russell to Clarendon, 15 Nov. 1847)

While the lord lieutenant and the bishops were grappling as best they could with the problems posed by the Famine, European attention was focusing on Rome. By 1847 Pius IX's position had become the centre of intense diplomacy, a pivotal point in the liberal and revolutionary movements as the events that took place in Italy began to have an impact on other European countries. Into this world of political manoeuvres the British government felt obliged to enter, and Irish affairs, too, became involved. the events that took place in Rome and the decisions taken there were to influence government attitudes up to and beyond the Ecclesiastical Titles Act three years later.

In nineteenth-century Europe, the relationship between religious minorities and governments differed according to whether the minority was Jewish, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant. Catholics, given the central position of the pope in their Church, were often accused by governments of dividing their allegiance between a foreign power--Rome--and the nation-state. On the other hand, governments were eager to get Rome to put pressure on Catholic minorities, and Rome often obliged. This, in turn, provoked among Catholic minorities hostility towards government manoeuvres at Rome and suspicion of curial complicity. This suspicion lay deep in Ireland, where 'religion from Rome, politics from home' summed up the outlook of many nationalists. Already after just a few months in Ireland Clarendon had noted this attitude.

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