God's Irishmen: Theological Debates in Cromwellian Ireland

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Conflicts between protestants and Catholics intensified as the Cromwellian invasion of 1649 inflamed the blood-soaked antagonism between the English and Irish. In the ensuing decade, half of Ireland's landmass was confiscated while thousands of natives were shipped overseas - all in a bid to provide safety for English protestants and bring revenge upon the Irish for their rebellion in 1641. Centuries later, these old wounds linger in Irish political and cultural discussion. In his new book, Crawford Gribben reconsiders the traditional reading of the failed Cromwellian invasion as he reflects on the invaders' fractured mental world.

As a tiny minority facing constant military threat, Cromwellian protestants in Ireland clashed over theological issues such as conversion, baptism, church government, miraculous signs, and the role of women. Protestant groups regularly invoked the language of the "Antichrist," but used the term more often against each other than against the Catholics who surrounded them. Intra-protestant feuds splintered the Cromwellian party. Competing quests for religious dominance created instability at the heart of the administration, causing its eventual defeat. Gribben reconstructs these theological debates within their social and political contexts and provides a fascinating account of the religious infighting, instability, and division that tore the movement apart.

Providing a close and informed analysis of the relatively few texts that survive from the period, Gribben addresses the question that has dominated discussion of this period: whether the protestants' small numbers, sectarian divisions and seemingly beleaguered situation produced an idiosyncratic theology and a failed political campaign.

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Editorial Reviews

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"God's Irishmen is an impressive book that makes an important contribution to both Irish and religious studies. Most significantly, Crawford Gribben's work should put to rest the notion of a monolithic Cromwellian piety imposing its will on a largely resistant population. Additionally, God's Irishmen lays a firm foundation for work that needs to be done on this period of Irish history from a variety of perspectives." —Church History

"Brings together literature, history and theology in a masterful treatment of a key period in Irish Protestantism." —Alan Ford, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, The University of Nottingham

"To the vicious heroism of Cromwell's soldiers and planters in Ireland, Crawford Gribben now adds the story of his preachers, committed to fighting a losing battle to save Irish souls. This is a fine work of historical theology as well as a powerful addition to our knowledge of the dark side of the Puritan Revolution." —John Morrill, Professor of British and Irish History, University of Cambridge

"This learned book is a major contribution to the literature on Puritanism and the Irish Cromwellians. As Gribben explores the theological controversies among Protestant colonists, he shows how their project of reformation was hamstrung by internecine disputes. His study sheds a flood of new light on puritan ideas of conversion, baptism, church government, gender and the supernatural. It traces some of the key fault-lines within post-Reformation Protestantism, offering valuable insights into Protestant fragmentation. 'God's Irishmen' deserves a wide readership among historians of seventeenth-century Ireland and early modern religion." —Dr John Coffey, University of Leicester, author of John Goodwin and the Puritan Revolution

"This is a first-rate analysis of a crucial decade in Irish history. Although the book covers well-plowed territory, Gribben takes a fresh, imaginative, and multidisciplinary approach to a period that has many times been examined in a more narrow fashion."—Kevin Herlihy, American Historical Review

"God's Irishmen [is] wonderfully written in its flow, structure, and literary command. ...Most of the chapters, adn the book as a whole, use captivating but problematizing episodes as avenues into broader, more probing analyses of the period in general. ...The erudition of each stage of Gribben's argument is impressive, and together they represent historical theology at its best." —Historical Journal

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Crawford Gribben is Professor of Early Modern British History School of History and Anthropology at Queen's University. He is the author of The Puritan Millennium: Literature and Theology, 1550-1682 and co-editor of a number of volumes including Enforcing Reformation in Ireland and Scotland, 1550-1700. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

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