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Unique view of early Jesuit Irish mission

A recent publication by the Jesuit Archives in Rome provides a unique view of the first Jesuits in Ireland, during the Irish Mission of the 16th to 18th century. The Jesuit Irish Mission: A Calendar of Correspondence, 1566–1752, which is over 600 pages long, is a comprehensive research tool for this period. It lists, for the first time in one volume, thousands of documents exchanged between the Jesuit Curia and superiors of the Jesuit Irish missions, now preserved in Rome and Dublin. The detailed summaries of these documents provide a window onto life in Ireland and onto Irish connections with the continent in the dramatic religious and political environments of early-modern Europe.

Vera Moynes, archivist, is the editor of this volume. She was commissioned to do the job as part of the bicentenary commemoration of the restoration of the Society of Jesus in Ireland in 2014. She is interviewed here about this extraordinary project by Damien Burke, Assistant Archivist of the Irish Jesuit Province.

The calendar is the sixteenth volume in the series Subsidia ad Historiam Societatis Iesu, published by IHSI (Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu). It contains précis of copy letters from Rome, letters from Ireland to Rome, lists of Jesuits and faculties granted to them, appendices, bibliography and an index. These documents, preserved in Jesuit archives in Dublin and Rome, give evidence of Irish Jesuit ministries, administration, persecution, communications, and ‘shifting alliances of friends and foes at times of war, and the diplomacy and flexibility required to direct Jesuits in the field’.

What the calendar provides is ‘a window onto life in Ireland and onto Irish connections with the continent in the dramatic religious and political environments of early-modern Europe’. Its key purpose is ‘to open up sources which so far have received little historiographical attention’ except from a few distinguished historians.

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