Religion and Greater Ireland: Christianity and Irish Global Networks 1750-1950

By Rafferty, Oliver P. | The Catholic Historical Review, Autumn 2016 | Go to article overview

Religion and Greater Ireland: Christianity and Irish Global Networks 1750-1950


Rafferty, Oliver P., The Catholic Historical Review


LATE MODERN EUROPEAN Religion and Greater Ireland: Christianity and Irish Global Networks 1750-1950. Edited by Colin Barr and Hillary M. Carey. [McGill-Queen's Studies in the History of Religion, Series 2, vol. 73.] (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. 2015. Pp. xiv, 456. $39.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-7735-4570-0.)

This is a fascinating study of Irish religious experience as this found expression in America and the British Empire in a 200-year period. The idea of "Greater Ireland" is not simply a synonym for the Irish diaspora. The Irish in "Greater Ireland" continued to be linked by emotional, cultural, and symbolic ties to the old country. Unlike other studies of the global Irish, the sixteen essays in this work emphasize the centrality of religion in Irish Catholic and Protestant culture, at home and abroad. The editors freely admit that this is not a comprehensive study of the topic; some geographical areas are neglected such as the West Indies, Argentina, Western Australia, and Britain, where the complexities are such as to merit individual volumes. Nor is there a chapter on Irish Jews, but John Stenhouse does indicate cooperation between Irish Catholics and Protestants with some leading Jews over social issues in New Zealand in the late-nineteenth century.

There is a sense in which many of the characteristics of the Irish in the diaspora are a mirror image of the Irish at home. Sectarian differences were a plague with the expansion of the Orange Order in Canada and Australia that served to keep religious rivalries alive. Diane Hall, however, illustrates the centrality of Orange Lodges in identity formation in Australia. She also warns against the dangers of subsuming Irish Protestant experience under the predominantly English character of mainstream Australian Protestantism. Similarly, Michael Gladwin shows the importance of Irish ministers for the development of Anglicanism in Australia despite what is often regarded as the "quintessentially English" nature of the church there.

Irish religious experience could never quite escape the tension produced by Irish political realities. Thus Myrtle Hill, in her chapter on Irish women in Protestant female missions between 1870 and 1914, points out that the Female Association for Promoting Christianity was founded in Belfast at a time when the issue of Home Rule was beginning to come to the fore. …

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