Empire and Emancipation: Scottish and Irish Catholics at the Atlantic Fringe, 1780–1850
Published: January 2022© 2022
302 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.70 in, 13 b&w illustrations, 2 b&w maps
Empire and Emancipation explores how the agency of Scottish and Irish Catholics redefined understandings of Britishness and British imperial identity in colonial landscapes. In highlighting the relationship of Scottish and Irish Catholics with the British Empire, S. Karly Kehoe starts an important and timely debate about Britain’s colonizer constituencies.
The colonies of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, Newfoundland, and Trinidad had some of the British Empire’s earliest, largest, and most diverse Catholic populations. These were also colonial spaces where Catholics exerted significant influence. Given the extent to which Scottish and Irish Catholics were constrained at home by crippling legislation, long-established patterns of socio-economic exclusion, and increasing discrimination, the British Empire functioned as the main outlet for their ambition. Kehoe shows how they engaged with and benefitted from the security needs of an expanding empire, the aspirations of an emerging middle class, and Rome’s desire to expand its influence in British territories.
Examining the experience of Scottish and Irish Catholics in these colonies exposes how the empire levelled the playing field for Britain’s national groups and brokered a stronger and more coherent British identity. In highlighting specific aspects of the complex and multifaceted relationship between Catholicism and the British imperial state, Kehoe presents Britishness as an identity defined much more by civil engagement and loyalism than by religion. In this way, Empire and Emancipation furthers our understanding of Britain and Britishness in the Atlantic world.
Introduction: Catholic Britons at the Atlantic Fringe
Part I: Identity, Catholic Relief, and Imperial Security
1. Catholics, Colonies, and the Imperial State
2. Imperial Security and Catholic Relief
3. Colonial Catholics and Constitutional Change: Developments in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton
Part II: Service, Education, and Political Influence
4. Engaging with Imperial Traditions: Military Mobilization and Slavery
5. Enabling Ambition through Education
6. The Decline of Lay Authority: Ecclesiastical Reorganization and Imperial Power in Trinidad and Newfoundland
"From Newfoundland to the West Indies, Scottish and Irish Catholics sought opportunities on the fringes of Britain’s Atlantic world, proving themselves loyal subjects while informally emancipating themselves from anti-Catholic legal constraints at home. Empire and Emancipation persuasively shows that Catholics were deeply embedded in the institutions of empire. By destabilizing the conventional wisdom that the British Empire was Protestant, and in her provocative use of ‘emancipation,’ Kehoe presses the reader to think critically and deeply about how religious and racial minorities shaped the complex political and cultural forces of nineteenth-century imperialism."Elizabeth Mancke, Canada Research Chair in Atlantic Canada Studies and Professor of History, University of New Brunswick
"Empire and Emancipation poses serious challenges to the prevailing historiography about the life and work of Catholics, particularly Irish Catholics, within the British Empire from 1780 to the end of the Great Famine. Meticulously researched, this book considers the British Empire as a vehicle for the growth of Irish and Scottish Catholic middle classes within its colonial fringes in the North Atlantic. This book will be devoured by historians of the Catholic Church, Ireland, and the British Empire, as its claims will certainly cause considerable historical debate."Mark G. McGowan, Professor of History, University of Toronto
"Meticulously researched and engagingly written, this revisionist study challenges traditional perceptions of the British Empire as a homogeneous Anglo-Saxon Protestant space. By evaluating issues of identity and agency among Irish and Scottish Catholics on the Atlantic fringe, it demonstrates that these maritime colonies offered ethnic and religious minorities a clear opportunity to articulate their diversity, demonstrate their loyalty, and expand the boundaries of their citizenship, often through collaborations that contributed significantly to the evolution of British imperial identity."Marjory Harper, Professor of History, University of Aberdeen