The eighteenth-century was the heyday of the Protestant ascendancy, but among the greatest advances in recent historiography has been the recovery of Catholic attitudes during the zenith of the ascendancy. Here Ian McBride insists on the continuity of Catholic politics and traditions right through the century, so that the nationalist explosion in the 1790s is seen not as a sudden earthquake, but as the maturing of an underground tradition. This holistic survey cuts past the clichés and lazy thinking that has characterised our understanding of the eighteenth century and, in so doing, sets a template for future understanding of that time.
The eighteenth century is in many ways the most problematic era in Irish history. Traditionally, the years from 1700 to 1775 have been short-changed by historians, who have concentrated overwhelmingly on the last quarter of the period. Ian McBride's survey seeks to correct that balance. At the same time it provides an accessible and fresh account of the bloody rebellion of 1798, the subject of so much recent controversy.
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