The Methodists in Ireland: A Short History

Article excerpt

DUDLEY LEVISTONE COONEY. The Methodists in Ireland: A Short History. Dublin: Columba Press, 2001. Pp. 296, select bibliography, index. £12.99 (paper).

The history of Irish Methodism has had many able denominational historians since the nineteenth century, among them Charles H. Crookshank, Fred Jeffery, and Risteard Ó Glaisne, and, in the early years of a new century, comes along this work by Cooney. In its way it is much more of the same of what earlier Methodist historians had offered-solid on fundamentals and eager to stress the impact that Irish Methodists have made. This is also a book for the newcomer to Methodism or for those growing up in that faith who would like to learn more about their history. The keyword about the book would be enthusiasm and perhaps that is the most appropriate characteristic for a book about Methodism.

Yet there is much more to the book than mere enthusiasm. Cooney has the reputation for being engaged with current historiography and his text has the fingerprints of scholars like David Hempton, Myrtle Hill, and W. R. Ward all over it. He is not afraid to utilize their conclusions even when, as with Hempton's work on Methodism's contribution to the "Second Reformation" in early-nineteenth century Ireland, this is not always flattering to the denomination. These influences are especially important in the later parts of the book which deal, briefly but with much intuition, with the experience of the preachers and the concerns of Irish Methodists into issues like education, poverty, and temperance. These chapters are important as they tell us much of the present concerns of the Methodists and find traditions for these stretching back over 150 years in some cases. In this way Cooney' s book can be identified of being of its time as much as the earlier books noted above. …