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Contested Past, Troubled Present: Britain and Ireland since 1800 - Religion in Society and Politics


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 7
  • Convenor: Sean Brady
  • Assessment: one essay of 5000-5500 words (100%)

Module description

In this course we will introduce you to the history of religion in Britain and Ireland 1801-2001, in the contexts of culture, politics and society. We also examine Ireland's troubled relationship with Britain, and the effects and place of religion in constructs of nation and identity in this period. The nineteenth and twentieth centuries commonly are regarded as the era of secularisation in Britain.

A particular focus in this course is questioning the ‘special place’ of religion in modern Britain and Ireland. Though arguably one of the most secular societies in the world, Britain’s constitutional and social arrangements have fostered and valorised religion, to an extent that separates it from other modern industrial societies. We will examine the place of religion and conflict in the constitutional history of the United Kingdom, and the pervasiveness of religion and religious ideals in social and cultural matters such as families, family limitation, divorce, censorship, sexual morality, obscenity, and developments in science and medicine. In addition, we aim to historicise fundamentalisms in contemporary British and Irish societies.

Indicative Module Content

  • What is religion? Consequences and historians
  • Revolution, faith, and the Act of Union 1801
  • Evangelism, local governance and high politics in the nineteenth century
  • Roman Catholicism and Irish migrants in Britain
  • Missionaries and nation, Britain and Ireland
  • Faiths, families and politics: Sexuality, gender and religion
  • Religious minorities, emancipation, and the British establishment
  • Secularity, modernity and religion
  • Sectarianism and politics in Britain and Ireland
  • Religion and education, Britain and Ireland
  • Fundamentalisms in the contemporary history of Britain and Ireland