Religion, anti-slavery, and identity: Irish Presbyterians, the United States, and transatlantic evangelicalism, c. 1820-1914

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Abstract

Scholars have devoted much attention to the causes and consequences of Presbyterian emigration from Ulster to the thirteen colonies before 1776. This article moves beyond the eighteenth century to examine the continued religious links between Presbyterians in Ireland and the United States in the nineteenth century. It begins with an examination of the influence of evangelicalism on both sides of the Atlantic and how this promoted unity in denominational identity, missionary activity to convert Catholics, and revivalist religion during the first half of the century. Though Irish Presbyterians had great affection for their American co-religionists, they were not uncritical, and significant tensions did develop over slavery. The article then examines the religious character of Scotch-Irish or Ulster-Scots identity in the late nineteenth century, which was articulated in response to the alleged demoralising influence of large-scale Irish immigration during and after the Famine of the 1840s, the so-called Romanisation of Catholicism, and the threat of Home Rule in Ireland. The importance of identity politics should not obscure religious developments, and the article ends with a consideration of the origins and character of fundamentalism, perhaps one of the most important cultural connections between Protestants in Northern Ireland and the United States in the twentieth century.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)378-398
Number of pages21
JournalIrish Historical Studies
Volume39
Issue number155
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2015

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