This book offers a critical survey of religious change and its causes in eighteenth-century Europe, and constitutes a challenge to the accepted views in traditional Enlightenment studies. Focusing on Enlightenment Italy, France and England, it illustrates how the canonical view of eighteenth-century religious change has in reality been constructed upon scant evidence and assumption, in particular the idea that the thought of the enlightened led to modernity. For, despite a lack of evidence, one of the fundamental assumptions of Enlightenment studies has been the assertion that there was a vibrant Deist movement which formed the “intellectual solvent” of the eighteenth century. The central claim of this book is that the immense ideological appeal of the traditional birth-of-modernity myth has meant that the actual lack of Deists has been glossed over, and a quite misleading historical view has become entrenched.
The book knits together two of the most significant themes in the social and cultural history of modern Ireland - mass emigration and religious change - and aims to provide fresh insight into both. It addresses the churches' responses to emigration, both in theory and in practice. The book also assesses how emigration impacted on the churches both in relation to their status in Ireland, and in terms of their ability to spread their influence abroad. It first deals with the theoretical positions of the clergy of each denomination in relation to emigration and how they changed over the course of the nineteenth century, as the character of emigration itself altered. It then explores the extent of practical clerical involvement in the temporal aspects of emigration. This includes attempts to prevent or limit it, a variety of facilitation services informally offered by parish clergymen, church-backed moves to safeguard emigrant welfare, clerical advice-giving and clerically planned schemes of migration. Irish monks between the fifth and eighth centuries had spread Christianity all over Europe, and should act as an inspiration to the modern cleric. Tied in with this reading of the past, of course, was a very particular view of the present: the perception that emigration represented the enactment of a providential mission to spread the faith.
their present to the past,
forging intellectual time-lines and traditions where none really
The following series of discussions represents an attempt to
review some of the causes and contexts of religiouschange in Enlightenment Italy, France and England. Although to a degree different from each other in content and objective, the aim of the case
studies is to illustrate how the notion that the Enlightenment
founded ‘modernity’ has led to significant distortions in our understanding of religious and intellectual change. I wish to assert the
Enlightenments. What, then, was the relationship between the
development of Enlightenment thinking on religion and the
political realities of the peninsula?
Two facts stand out above all others: the centrality of Rome to
religiouschange and the evident decline in the international and
peninsular influence of Rome. Rome was now perceived by Italian
sovereigns as less capable of rallying extra-peninsular support to its
defence, and so it is unthinkable that – regardless of whether the
Enlightenment ever arrived or not – sovereigns would not seize the
pretence of Religion, were only grasping at Power’. As a consequence, he explained,
some gentlemen refused to countenance both parties.28 Such letters
are of limited value as evidence of religious reality – and certainly
not for the existence of a deist movement or real religiouschange.
After all, we know that clerics were prone to overstating the case for
their own ends. Yet this letter has been cited as important evidence
of the ‘transformation of the Puritan into a whig’, that in the transition to Whiggism the religious polity of presbyterianism was abandoned for a
that we realize that protagonists of the Enlightenment often
thought in this manner. It does not, however, oblige historians to
use the reasoning of the philosophes as a predicate to their own
research on the question of public opinion in religiouschange. The
distinction of the philosophes between the rude masses and the enlightened again implicitly raises the question of whether historians
can locate any fruitful dividing line between the enlightened and
non-enlightened. As we have seen, finding such a dividing line is
very problematic indeed, simply because we now
religiouschange has been relatively neglected because it
manifested itself in a traditional early modern politico-religious
form, rather than in the ‘modernizing’ language of the philosophes.
That the philosophes have been granted the credit for achievements
that were not theirs is not really suprising. They themselves were
prone to claim credit for victories of others against the establishment, even if – as in the suppression of the Jesuits in France – these
were in fact victories for one wing of Catholicism against another.
This circumstance cannot, however, form any
are viewed in
relation to each other. The type of diocesan histories undertaken by scholars as
diverse as Robert Sauzet, Keith Luria and Bernard Peyrous provide a more
realistic picture of religiouschange within France during the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries; resistance to episcopal discipline has been shown to be
almost as common as acquiescence and, as both Sauzet and Luria demonstrate,
the contrasting personalities and approaches of prelates often had a significant
impact on the path of reform.10 Pierre Scarron of Grenoble adopted a very
movements and tendencies within Anglicanism have often been a focus of
attention because of the perceived dynamism of religiouschange in
early modern England, and also because of the recognition by most
that developments there marked the earliest phase of the Enlightenment. Thus the Cambridge Platonists (1630s–80s, the most notable
element of the Latitudinarian tendency) have been selected for
detailed study on the basis of their desire for (relative) tolerance and
their conception of reason as the arbiter both of natural and
revealed religion. There is, however, little
and religiouschange –
and aims to provide fresh insight into both.
There is a reasonable popular assumption that Irish emigration
on a significant scale began only in the nineteenth century. Many
regard the Great Famine as Ireland’s mass migration ‘year zero’, while
others might be aware that the economic slump after the end of the
Napoleonic wars in 1815 prompted consistent outward movement.
Although there is some truth to both points, emigration from Ireland
before 1815 was by no means negligible, and each of the three major
churches in Ireland consequently had