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Insular Christianity Project, 1530-1750

Religious beliefs have proved crucial in determining identities, shaping societies and forming intellectual matrices within Ireland, and the British-Irish archipelago as a whole. This has been recognised by its inclusion of religion, and of comparative and cross-cultural studies, within the IRCHSS Thematic Area Four 'The making of Ireland: paths to modernity'. At no time was this more apparent than in the centuries under consideration in this project.

Examination of these processes in a genuinely comparative and collaborative manner is the primary scholarly objective of this project. Dialogue and debate would be focused through the selection of three particular, and intellectually exciting, sets of questions to be addressed by contributors. A closely ordered, but manageable, sequence for the delivery of submissions and for meetings for discussion would permit publication within an acceptably short time-frame.

The three volumes derived from the symposia would not be 'conference proceedings' but genuinely collaborative ventures in research, enriched by mutual suggestion and criticism. They would address issues which would resonate beyond the narrowly ecclesiastical, namely, Catholicism and Presbyterianism as national communities of faith; the practice of Christianity in the Celtic world, and the creation and appropriation of Celtic histories; the impact of the vernacular Bible, in literary, cultural, theological and devotional terms.

Postdoctoral projects are a crucial component of the overall project. Religious history, even broadly understood, has perhaps lacked the prominence within the Irish academy which has been attained by other important branches of historical scholarship. The creation of posts dedicated to furthering scholarly careers within this field would thus contribute to sustaining diversity within Irish historical scholarship. It is intended that the postdoctoral fellows would be active in the organisation and promotion of the symposia, and contribute to the ensuing debates as well as working on assigned editorial projects. These, in turn, have their own importance to the project as a whole.

The aim here is to promote a particular approach to the editing of primary sources for early modern Irish history, one which prioritizes both text (through careful editorial work and full scholarly apparatus) and context, through the inclusion of substantial interpretive essays. The works selected for inclusion complement the themes of the symposia, particular the first of the three. Patrick Adair's 'True narrative', composed in the late seventeenth century, is not only a vital source of information on the emergence of Presbyterianism in Ireland, but a significant exercise in the creation of a religious tradition.

It would be published alongside other, shorter, texts deriving from the formative period of Irish Presbyterianism, and framed by interpretive essays by Dr. Armstrong, and Dr. Andrew Holmes of Queen's University, Belfast. Conor O'Mahony's controversial Disputatio Apologetica (1645), by contrast, illuminates by the manner in which it cuts across much of the Catholic thinking produced within Ireland. The items chosen merit publication on scholarly criteria, but have also been selected as viable publications within time-frame of the project.