The role of Evangelicalism in the formation of nineteenth-century Ulter Protestant cultural identity

Sutherland, Philomena (2010). The role of Evangelicalism in the formation of nineteenth-century Ulter Protestant cultural identity. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis considers the drive to commemorate within Ulster Protestantism. It focuses on Londonderry between 1859 and 1886 with particular attention paid to the role of evangelicalism, prominent during the relevant period. The assessment is made against the historic backdrop of the Ulster Revival (1859), disestablishment of the Church of Ireland (1869) and the threat of home rule (1880s).

In order to gauge more accurately the contribution of religion, a multidisciplinary approach was adopted. Insights from anthropology, political science and sociology were used to complement the primary historical approach to the subject. The subject is approached from two angles, focussing initially on a historical and biographical study of William Johnston (1829-1902), a representative figure who illustrates wider trends and linkages in Ulster's political world and secondly on the city of Londonderry and its anniversary commemorations, and on the important intersection between the two.

The discourse from the sermons preached at the 12 August and 18 December commemorations, organised by the Apprentice Boys of Londonderry Association, were analysed using Ninian Smart's Dimensions of the Sacred as an analytical tool and were compared to the discourse in the secular events. This helped to ii clarify the nature of the outlook held by the protagonists and establish the extent to which it had a religious framework.

The catalytic role of evangelicalism seemed evident as the synthesis between Loyalism, Orangeism and evangelicalism was explored against political chronology and in relation to covenantalism. A change in direction and a new political agenda with strong religious conviction became an aspect of Loyalism. This change was reflected in ritual that underwent significant development in the period. This was considered in relation to two important relevant scholarly concepts that related to identity, the 'invention of tradition' and 'civil religion'. The period between 1859 and 1885 proved pivotal in the development of Ulster Protestant cultural identity.

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