‘For the Greater Glory’: Irish Jesuit Letters and the Irish Counter-Reformation, 1598–1626

  • David Finnegan
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas Archives internationales d'histoire des idées book series (ARCH, volume 209)


The historical myth persists that the Irish Jesuits were the critical force in defining the Irish Counter-Reformation and that until the establishment of a permanent Jesuit mission in Ireland in 1598, Irish Catholicism at best remained hidebound and at worst in danger of succumbing to Protestantism. This perception arises from the correspondence of the Irish Jesuits with their Generals on the continent, and in particular with Claudio Aquaviva, General between 1581 and 1615. From the moment the Irish mission was recommenced in 1598 its members were aware that to survive it was critical to persuade their General to support them given that they had no means of training men in Ireland owing to their poverty and government harassment. After 1604, under its recently arrived Superior, Christopher Holywood, the mission’s correspondence was increasingly devoted to that purpose, and claims of gains made in the face of almost insuperable difficulties became ever more strident. This essay seeks to show that the correspondence of the Irish Jesuits often exaggerated their achievements, claimed those of others for themselves or ignored the work of other clergymen completely and that Irish historians have, to a large extent, accepted these claims without thorough investigation of the sources.


Irish Population Rhetorical Strategy Irish People Bodleian Library Jesuit Mission 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryWarwick SchoolWarwickUK

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