The Irish Enlightenment
Harvard University Press 2015
New Books in British StudiesNew Books in Christian StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Intellectual HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network December 13, 2016 Mark Klobas
Traditionally histories of the Enlightenment era exclude Ireland in the belief that the movement left little impression on developments. In The Irish Enlightenment (Harvard University Press, 2016), Michael Brown challenges this assumption, demonstrating how the ideas and themes of the Enlightenment had a considerable impact upon the history of the country. He begins by examining how the Enlightenment entered the public discourse confessionally, though the debates taking place within the Presbyterian, Anglican, and Catholic faiths in the aftermath of the decisive War of the Two Kings in the 1690s. From there it spread to the public sphere, where issues of civility took center stage both as a means of addressing problems in Irish life and as a tool for bridging the divide between confessions. By the late 18th century, however, the public discourse became increasingly radicalized, with the divergence of views leading to the 1798 Rising, which Brown terms an “Enlightened Civil War” that represents the failure of civil society.