Power, wealth and Catholic identity in Ireland, 1850–1900
in Irish Catholic identities
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Catholics with money can be a rare sight in Irish history, a sort of mythical, unlikely creature. This chapter examines the reasons for the binary impulse in Irish historiography, confining its analysis to the second half of the nineteenth century. It argues for a more nuanced treatment of the whole spectrum of Irish Catholic wealth and for a considered reappraisal of the role played by the richest Catholic families in Irish society in this period. The chapter highlights the importance of education in relation to Catholic social mobility in the period. The temptation for historians interested in the dynamics of Irish Catholic power and wealth is to focus almost exclusively on the secular clergy. Historians of Irish education have tended to concentrate much more on the provision of elementary education and, to date, there exists no large-scale examination of elite education in Ireland.

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