The Transformation of Traditional Religion in Ireland

  • Samantha A. Meigs
Part of the Early Modern History: Society and Culture book series


How can one correlate the tradition of an old, highly orthodox Gaelic church with the stereotyped images of an Irish peasantry riddled with ignorance and superstition, and all but lapsed into paganism by the eighteenth century? Behind these conflicting images lies a serious misinterpretation of the evidence by many historians who have simply swallowed whole the prejudices of the early modern observers of Irish society, without looking at the broader context. Even otherwise sound scholarship, such as that produced by John Bossy, Emmet Larkin and S. J. Connolly, has been skewed by their acceptance of the old notion that the Irish peasantry of the early modern period were ignorant and heterodox in their religious observance. Bossy tends to overemphasize Irish practices (such as wakes) of borderline Tridentine orthodoxy persisting through the seventeenth century; Larkin underplays achievements of Tridentine Ireland before the disasters of the 1690s; and Connolly often overlooks evidence of medieval Gaelic orthodoxy.1 Yet evidence exists that the Irish peasants retained a clear grasp of a fundamentally orthodox Catholic tradition until the disasters of the 1690s — once the testimony of outside observers is properly decoded.2


Seventeenth Century Early Modern Period Traditional Religion Religious Observance Irish People 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Samantha A. Meigs 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samantha A. Meigs
    • 1
  1. 1.University of IndianapolisUSA

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