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The Penal Times: The Catholic Church in Eighteenth-Century Ireland

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Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

2 Titanic Boulevard

Titanic Quarter

Belfast

BT3 9HQ

United Kingdom

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PRONI in conjunction with the Ulster Society for Irish Historical Studies, host this J.C. Beckett Memorial lecture by Professor Ian McBride on 24 May 2018, 7pm.

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 an 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.

Ian McBride is the Foster Professor of Irish History at Hertford College, Oxford. He has broad interests in Ireland between the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries, especially its politics, culture and intellectual life. He currently holds a Leverhulme Major Research Award which will enable him to spend two years researching and writing a study of the impact of the penal laws on eighteenth-century Ireland.

Professor McBride grew up in County Armagh, and his interest in History flowed naturally from the political instability and intensity of Northern Ireland in the late twentieth century. He was educated at Jesus College, Oxford and University College London, and was awarded a research fellowship at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (1993-96). Between 2000 and 2016 he taught at King’s College London.

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Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

2 Titanic Boulevard

Titanic Quarter

Belfast

BT3 9HQ

United Kingdom

View Map

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