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The Bible War in Ireland

The 'Second Reformation' and the Polarization of Protestant-Catholic Relations, 1800-1840

By: Irene Whelan

Publication Date: October 2005


The Bible War in Ireland by Irene Whelan


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At the end of the eighteenth century an evangelical movement gained enormous popularity at all levels of Irish society. Initially driven by the enthusiasm and commitment of Methodists and Dissenters, it quickly gained ascendancy in the Church of Ireland, where its unique blend of moral improvement and conservative piety appealed to those threatened by the democratic revolution and the demands of the Catholic population for political equality.

The Bible War in Ireland identifies this evangelical movement as the origin of Ireland’s Protestant and Second Reformation, which broke into open expression when Archbishop William Magee of Dublin claimed ecclesiastical supremacy for the Church of Ireland in his famous inaugural sermon in St Patrick’s Cathedral in October 1822. This in turn helped provoke a revolution in political consciousness among the Catholic population, led by Bishop James Warren Doyle. The Doyle-Magee controversy set the stage for the emergence of the Catholic Church as a leading player in the Irish political arena, culminating in the Catholic Relief Act of 1829.

Extensively researched, and illustrated, Irene Whelan’s book puts forward a uniquely challenging interpretation of the modern origins of religious and political polarization in Ireland.

‘With evangelical politics born again on a global scale, Irene Whelan’s vivid and compelling account of nineteenth-century Ireland is a timely reminder of the intolerance and intensity that accompanies civil wars of the soul.’ – Luke Gibbons, Notre Dame University


IRENE WHELAN, born in Clifden, Co. Galway, was educated at University College Galway and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is Associate Professor of History and Director of Irish Studies at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York.

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Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Publication Date

October 2005


Hardback, 384pp