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Empires of Religion
Call for papers: 30 November 2005
UCD Dublin 20-21 June 2006.

Sponsors: Centre for Australian Studies, School of History, Humanities Institute of Ireland, and the Micheál Ó Cléirigh Institute

Religion has traditionally accompanied the expansion, and the overthrow, of empires but it is sometimes argued that religion was of little consequence to the British Empire. Yet, absent-mindedly perhaps, British religious cultures were seeded around the globe in the course of empire so that they endure as some of its most abiding artefacts, particularly in its settler societies of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. Attempts to establish Anglicanism as the faith of the empire and missionary efforts to propagate Christianity among native peoples are only part of this complex religious story. From the Catholic metropole in Dublin, Irish Catholicism expanded prodigiously. English and Welsh nonconformity, Scottish and Irish Presbyterianism, Orthodox Judaism, and even esoteric faiths such as Theosophy and Spiritualism all have significant, and little researched, imperial histories. There are many parallels between patterns of religious development in Britain and in some of the settler colonies: for instance the strength of Evangelicalism in the nineteenth century and of the social gospel in the early twentieth; the decline of Protestant church-going from around 1890, contrasted with continuing high levels of Catholic practice; the religious boom of the 1950s and the bust in the 1960s; and, most recently, the resurgence in Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. This conference calls for papers which consider the many ways in which religion served, thwarted, transformed, mitigated and reinforced the bonds of empire in the colonised world during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We hope to attract speakers who will consider local colonial and metropolitan religious communities and bring together researchers addressing similar issues in different parts of the imagined British Empire.

Themes to be considered include:

Comparative and/or case studies of colonial religious cultures
Religious discourses of support and challenge to the imperial ideal
Roman and other religious empires from Dublin to Durban
Women as agents of imperial religious networks
Metropolitan and colonial religious communities

Offers of Papers, including title, brief abstract, contact details and institutional affliationshould be forwarded by email by 30 Nov. 2005 to the conference organisers:

Professor Hilary Carey, Keith Cameron Chair of Australian History,
University College Dublin: tel. +353 1 716 8354; fax. 353 1 716 8602; email:, or

Professor Hugh McLeod, Professor of Church History, University of Birmingham
tel: +44 121 41 45665; email:

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