The Irish Church and the Tudor reformations

Henry A. Jefferies

Hardback €49.50
Catalogue Price: €55.00
ISBN: 978-1-84682-050-2
May 2010. 302pp.

‘The publication of this monograph is to be warmly welcomed by scholars and students of the Reformation in Ireland … Dr Jefferies – a strong proponent of the new religious history – is well qualified to write this authoritative survey … readers will appreciate Jefferies’ commendable achievement in fundamentally reconfiguring our understanding of the place of religion in 16th-century Ireland and, by extension, the reasons for the failure of the Tudor reformations. It is to be highly recommended as essential reading to all scholars and students of the Tudor period', M.A. Lyons, Parliamentary History (June 2012).

‘Why did the Reformation fail in Ireland? It’s a question worth asking … In a lively and clear-headed narrative, which combines synthesis of existing studies with significant original research, Henry A. Jefferies reassesses the evidence and the current state of the question … we should welcome this robust and richly documented account of [Catholic Ireland’s] foundational years’, Peter Marshall, TLS (30 September 2011).

‘Jefferies’ book offers a broad overview of the Irish Reformation up to the end of the sixteenth century, which will commend it to anyone wishing both to gain an overview of the course of events and to reflect on the complexity of the context in which they were played out … I have no doubt that this book is a significant contribution to the on-going debate and I have no hesitation in recommending it', Adrian Empey, Church of Ireland Gazette (August 2010).

‘There has not been an overall survey of the Tudor reformation in Ireland since Robert Dudley Edwards’s Church and state in Tudor Ireland, published in 1935. With the plethora of articles and monographs published over the past twenty years, a survey containing a synthesis of this new research has been urgently required. Henry Jefferies, who has work on the Irish reformation for many years, has provided us with such a work … Jefferies weaves together convincing evidence that indicates that the Irish pre-reformation church (particularly at a parochial level) was not in decline … this book represents a significant step forward in our understanding and perception of the reformation and its failure in Tudor Ireland', Brendan Scott,  History Ireland (November/December 2010).

‘This is the first overview of the Tudor Reformation in Ireland to appear since R. Dudley Edwards (1935) … Given the number of writings on the Irish Reformation since the 1970s, the survey was badly needed. Henry Jefferies is also very well qualified to write it, having previously published a fine monograph on Reformation Armagh and many articles on other aspects of Irish ecclesiastical history in the Reformation period. The book is much more than a summary of recent research … the most satisfying part of the book is the opening analysis of the pre-Reformation church which deploys a wide range of sources to assess the state of religion and the initial impact of reform … this is an effective and convincing survey of the failure of the Irish Reformation. It will not need to be replaced for another generation’, Stephen Ellis, Journal of British Studies (January 2011).

‘This is a fascinating study of the Tudor reformation period in Ireland … the book sparkles with insights and it is not an exaggeration to say that it is not only the harbinger of a new way to look at the reformation in Ireland, it is also the first fruits of such an enterprise … Well written and clearly laid out with regular chapter divisions, this book reflects the concerns of a professional historian who also has a duty of care to his readers and students. It is a fantastic achievement', Michael O’Neill, Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland (November 2010).

‘What has been lacking up to now is a synthesis of this recent scholarly output on the religious history of Tudor Ireland along the lines of the conspectuses by W.A. Phillips, M.V. Ronan and R.D. Edwards in the earlier twentieth century. In this regard, the publication of Henry Jefferies’s book is warmly to be welcomed … Dr. Jefferies is very much a proponent of the new religious history, privileging the subject while remaining completely objective in terms of confessional affiliation … Henry Jefferies has bravely ventured where many of those whose views he questions so forthrightly have feared to go, and for that we are deeply indebted to him. For those who have longed for the availability of a modern textbook on the Reformation in Ireland, this work is a godsend. Above all, the author should be saluted for placing religion squarely at the centre of his discussion of the history of the sixteenth century, and for reframing the question as to why the Reformation failed in Ireland in the context of the temporal and spiritual struggles of the fin de siècle', Colm Lennon, Recusant History (2011).

‘In this well-researched volume, covering religious belief and behaviour for the whole century, [Jefferies] provides a vigorous challenged to some of the historians with whom he had previously identified. He is determined to put eh religious conviction back into the Reformation debate, and to question arguments built upon a secularist view of competing interests and political manipulation … The evidence for general support of Catholic institutions and rituals is indeed strong, and the book constructs an impressive argument upon this', Felicity Heal, Journal of Ecclesiastical History (2011).

'The book skilfully maps the state of pre-Reformation Catholic leadership and pastoral care, together with an insightful inventory of the material fabric of the medieval Catholic Church in Ireland … Jefferies reports a vibrant culture of religious activity and commitment in pre-Reformation Ireland. The author argues that the conventional image of neglected, dilapidated and abandoned churches during the late medieval period is overstated. Instead, evidence suggest a broad campaign of expansion, rebuilding, restoration, and ornamentation of parish churches and chantry chapels during the late fifteenth century … The Irish Church and the Tudor Reformations traverses the multiple missteps and reluctance of the Tudor state to commit the material resources needed to build a self-sustaining community of Irish Protestants', W.M. Spellman, Sixteenth-Century Journal (Autumn 2011).

‘The author prefaces his central theme with a survey of the state of the church in Ireland on the even of the Henrician Reformation. In doing so, he extends to the entire country techniques he has deployed in his studies of the church in Ulster for the same period … The author’s treatment of the neglected Marian restoration is a particularly valuable contribution … Jefferies’ book marks a most significant contribution to one of the major historiographical debates concerning early modern Ireland … The canvas is broad, the treatment is detailed, and yet the issues are kept to the foreground. A clearer sense of the unfolding of the sixteenth-century Reformation, and of its limited impact, at both national and regional level, emerges', Brian Mac Cuarta SJ, Irish Economic and Social History (2012).