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New Book by Thomas Power
Apocalypse in Ireland: Prophecy and Politics in the 1820s by Thomas Power, Professor Emeritus of Church History at Wycliffe College, has recently been released. Hardcover copies are available on the publisher's website.
A commentary on the Book of Revelation entitled A General History of the Christian Church (1771), written by an English Catholic bishop contained a prophecy that predicted the destruction of Protestantism in 1825. Summarized in a broadsheet and widely disseminated in Ireland, the prophecy drew on a receptivity in Irish popular culture to apocalyptic change. Reinforced by folk religion, poetry and ballad, the prophecy generated high expectations among Irish Catholics that a complete overthrow of the social and political order was imminent. The prophecy was appropriated by the Rockite agrarian movement of the early 1820s to give potency and legitimation to traditional grievances. The vacuum created by the demise of the agrarian movement was filled by the Catholic Association and Daniel O’Connell who utilized the prophecy for the attainment of Catholic emancipation in 1829. Dissemination of the prophecy resulted in a rise in sectarianism and contributed to an exodus from Ireland of large numbers of Protestants thereby creating an Irish spiritual diaspora particularly in British North America. This book reveals how a misinterpretation of the passages from Revelation heightened sectarian fervour that left a lasting legacy.