The Beckett Lecture – Prof. Ian McBride, ‘The Penal Times: The Catholic Church in Eighteenth-Century Ireland’

The 2018 J.C. Beckett Memorial Lecture will be given by Professor Ian McBride, Foster Professor of Irish History at the University of Oxford, on Thursday 24 May 2018, in the Seminar Room, PRONI, at 7pm

Preceded by a Wine Reception at 6.15pm in the foyer of PRONI

This is a public lecture, open to all.

Observations on Popery

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, 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.

Audio Track


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