Protestant Ireland: Variety and Vitality, 1800–1914

Wolffe, John (2024). Protestant Ireland: Variety and Vitality, 1800–1914. In: Ganiel, Gladys and Holmes, Andrew R. eds. The Oxford Handbook of Religion in Modern Ireland. Oxford Handbooks. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, pp. 53–71.



Irish Protestantism in this period must be understood on its own terms in all its diversity and vitality rather than stereotyping it by over-emphasizing its anti-Catholic aspect. Together with the major groupings of the (Anglican) Church of Ireland and the Presbyterians, smaller denominations became more numerous. While Protestant, and especially Presbyterian, strength was greatest in the northeast, the Church of Ireland had a presence throughout the island. During the early nineteenth century Irish Protestantism was reshaped by the impact of evangelicalism and subsequently gained renewed impetus from the Ulster revival of 1859. There were extensive social engagements, notably with education and temperance, together with a strong commitment to overseas mission and international networks such as the Evangelical Alliance. Controversial endeavours to proselytize Catholics were indeed a significant strand in this history, but for all its insecurities and crises, nineteenth-century Irish Protestantism was much more than a merely sectarian movement.

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