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Negotiating religious change and conflict: Female religious communities in early modern Ireland, c.1530–c.1641

  • Bronagh A. McShane (a1)
Abstract

This article explores how communities of female religious within the English sphere of influence in Ireland negotiated their survival, firstly in the aftermath of the Henrician dissolution campaigns of the late 1530s and 1540s and thereafter down to the early 1640s. It begins by examining the strategies devised by women religious in order to circumvent the state’s proscription of vocational living in the aftermath of the Henrician suppression campaigns. These ranged from clandestine continuation of conventual life to the maintenance of informal religious vows within domestic settings. It then moves on to consider the modes of migration and destinations of Irish women who, from the late sixteenth century onwards, travelled to the Continent in pursuit of religious vocations, an experience they shared with their English counterparts. Finally, it considers how the return to Ireland from Europe of Irish Poor Clare nuns in 1629 signalled the revival of monastic life for women religious on the island. The article traces the importance of familial and clerical patronage networks to the ongoing survival of Irish female religious communities and highlights their role in sustaining Catholic devotional practices, which were to prove vital to the success of the Counter-Reformation mission in seventeenth-century Ireland.

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The author wishes to thank Professor Marian Lyons (Maynooth University), Professor Colm Lennon (Maynooth University) and Dr Emilie K.M. Murphy (University of York) for reading drafts of this article and providing helpful comments and feedback. Thanks are also due to Professor Marie-Louise Coolahan (National University of Ireland, Galway) and Dr Caroline Bowden (Queen Mary University of London) for their advice and encouragement. The author gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance received for this research from the John and Pat Hume Scholarship (Maynooth University), the Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship and the Royal Irish Academy (Charlemont Travel Award).

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Charlotte Woodford , Nuns as Historians in Early Modern Germany (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)

Caroline Bowden , ‘The English Convents in Exile and Questions of National Identity, c.1600–1688’ in David Worthington, ed. British and Irish Emigrants and Exiles in Europe (Boston: Brill, 2010), 297341

Marie-Louise Coolahan , Women, Writing and Language in Early Modern Ireland (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)

Brendan Bradshaw , ‘George Browne, First Reformation Archbishop of Dublin, 1536–54’ in Journal of Ecclesiastical History (hereafter JEH) 21 (1970): 301326

Christopher Maginn , ‘The Baltinglass Rebellion, 1580: English Dissent or a Gaelic Uprising?’, HJ 47, no. 2 (2004): 205232

Laurence Lux-Sterrit , ‘Mary Ward’s English Institute: The Apostolate as Self-Affirmation’, Recusant History (hereafter Rec. Hist.) 28, no. 2 (2006): 192208

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British Catholic History
  • ISSN: 2055-7973
  • EISSN: 2055-7981
  • URL: /core/journals/british-catholic-history
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