(Re)making Ireland British: conversion and civility in a neglected 1643 treatise

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Early modern Ireland was a missionary land. English efforts to convert the Irish to Protestantism, and to inculcate a ‘civilized’ way of life, had prompted the creation of several large-scale plantation projects, with English and Scottish settlers coming to Ireland to effect this transformation. These ‘everyday missionaries’ were to provide an example of godly, civil living that would make Ireland a ‘comfortable and christian society’. However, the 1641 Irish Rebellion proved a profound challenge to that idealized vision. This chapter examines the rebellion, responses to it, and the reconstruction of this English – or ‘British’ – project through a neglected 1643 treatise, written by Henry Jones and three of his colleagues, informed by their work collecting witness depositions from ‘despoiled’ settlers from across Ireland. The treatise is insightful both for its analysis of what went wrong in the rebellion, but also as a rallying cry to remake and renew the effort for Protestantism and civility in Ireland. Frequently described as a ‘laboratory for empire’, this chapter argues that early modern Ireland should also be seen as a ‘laboratory for conversion’, as an early case study of evangelization at the heart of empire.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBritish Protestant Missions and the Conversion of Europe, 1600-1900
EditorsSimone Maghenzani, Stefano Villani
ISBN (Print)9780367198510
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sept 2020


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