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European History | History | History of Religion


Cynthia Curran, History


The 18th century was a period of great activity in the field of historical and antiquarian scholarship in Ireland, as Catholics and Protestants wrote accounts of the island’s early history which were equally concerned with the present state of affairs in Ireland. Previous scholarship has focused on the political nature of antiquarian writing by Irish Catholics as responses to competing Protestant narratives, but their role as a means of both reconstructing and reaffirming previous identities among Irish Catholics has been overlooked. Examining the writings of Charles O’Conor of Belanagare, James MacGeoghegan, and Sylvester O’Halloran, the three Irish Catholic antiquarians who wrote about the period between Ireland’s conversion to Christianity and the coming of the Anglo-Normans, shows that these works represent a conscious effort to construct Irish Catholic identity in the context of the 18th century by addressing concerns such as Jacobitism, the Penal Laws, and the collapse of the Gaelic social order in the century before.