Book Review: Troubled Geographies: A Spatial History of Religion and Society in Ireland by Ian N. Gregory, Niall A. Cunningham, C.D. Lloyd, Ian G. Shutleworth, and Paul S. Ell.

AuthorUneke, Okori
PositionBook review

Gregory, Ian N., Niall A. Cunningham, C.D. Lloyd, Ian G. Shuttleworth, and Paul S. Ell. Troubled Geographies: A Spatial History of Religion and Society in Ireland. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013. xv + 243 pages. Paperback, $45.00.

Troubled Geographies: A Spatial History of Religion and Society in Ireland is a detailed historiographical narrative of two centuries of Irish national identity, politics, and religious division. With interdisciplinary specializations in history, geography, archaeology, paleoecology, socio-cultural change, and data digitization analysis, the authors of the book explore how economy, society, politics, and religion have shaped Ireland's history. Most importantly, religion and geography were explicitly linked in the formation of ethnic, political, and spatial-religious identities that have and continue, to some extent, shape Irish society today. The narrative presented can be summed up under the rubric of four sequential, but by no means exhaustive, sections: The Plantations and the Seeds of Ireland's Religious Geographies; The Famine and Its Impact (1840s-1860s); Partition, Civil War and Division (1911-1960s); and Communal Conflict in Northern Ireland (1969-2001). Courtesy of new geospatial technologies, the authors capitalized on the use of Geographic Information System Databases.

The link between religion and geography hinges on the political ideologies of unionism (loyalty of Northern Ireland to the United Kingdom) and nationalism/republicanism (unification of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland). The seeds of Ireland's religious geographies were planted following the establishment of plantations in the 16th and 17th centuries, with the purpose of settling specific areas with English and Scottish Protestants loyal to the British crown for political and economic reasons. Politically, it was designed to mute the perceived threat that Catholic France and Spain could pose through Catholic Ireland, and economically the objective was to strengthen the commercial links between southwestern Scotland and northeastern Ireland. To this end, major plantations were set up in predominantly Protestant areas around Dublin, Ulster and parts of Munster and the midlands, but no efforts were made to establish plantations in parts of predominantly Catholic western Ireland. Consequently, the plantations laid the foundation for the fusion of identity, economy, politics, religion, and geography. The aftermath of...

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