Charity Movements in Eighteenth-Century Ireland

Charity Movements in Eighteenth-Century Ireland

Philanthropy and Improvement

Karen Sonnelitter


Boydell Press



Relates charity movements to religious impulse, Enlightenment 'improvement' and the fears of the Protestant ruling elite that growing social problems, unless addressed, would weaken their rule.
The philanthropic impulse to engage in charitable work and to encourage economic "improvement" was sharpened in eighteenth-century Ireland as Irish Protestants became increasingly aware of the threat that social problems, such as poverty, disease and criminality, posed to their rule. One response to this threat was the establishment of a number of voluntary societies which sought to address the different problems plaguing Ireland. This book examines a number of these voluntary societies, including those concerned with promoting education, supporting hospitals, and improving agriculture and manufacturing. It shows how these movements differed from earlier efforts in organisation, method and aims and demonstrates the connection between religiously motivated charities, Enlightenment-inspired scientific societies and the Irish government. It pays particular attention to the role of women, both as supporters of, and objects of, charity. It argues that, together, these movements aspired to purge Ireland of what they saw as destabilising factors that weakened the Anglo-Irish state. Improvers reflected Enlightenment-era optimism about the perfectibility of society and saw themselves as serving the interests and aspirations of the nation.

Karen Sonnelitter is Assistant Professor of History at Siena College, Loudonville, New York. She completed her doctorate at Purdue University.


June 2016
2 black and white, 7 line illustrations
218 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Irish Historical Monographs
ISBN: 9781783270682
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press
BISAC HIS018000, BUS023000, SOC033000
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Ireland in the Eighteenth Century: The Case for Improvement
'The Worst in Christendom': The Church of Ireland and Improvement
Education and Charity: The Incorporated Society for Promoting English Protestant Schools in Ireland
To Cure and Relieve: Voluntary Hospitals in Eighteenth-Century Dublin
Improvement as Philanthropy: The Dublin Society
'The Benevolent Sympathies of the Female Heart': Women, Improvement, and the Work of the Lady Arbella Denny
National and Local Government and Improvement
Conclusion: Philanthropy and Improvement in the Eighteenth-Century and Beyond

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