‘Bishop Francis Hutchinson: a Case Study in the Culture of Eighteenth-Century Improvement’

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This article is a study of the attempts by the Bishop of Down and Connor, Bishop Francis Hutchinson (1660-1739), to bring about the social, economic and cultural ‘improvement’ of mid-eighteenth-century Ireland. Hutchinson had achieved enough by the time of his death, on his Portglenone estate, as a member of the Dublin Society, and with his pen, to be regarded as the exemplar of the improving clergymen. The idea of improvement fitted perfectly into Hutchinson’s world view, an outlook closely associated with Latitudinarianism and Whiggism in post Revolution England and which embraced Newtonian science, the new moral and mental values of sociability and politeness, as well as reasonable religion. Ireland, a severely under-developed country, regularly caught in the grip of economic crisis, provided Hutchinson with the opportunity and resources to demonstrate his support of improvement ideology in a practical way for the first time. The fact that it complemented his other main concern of the period, the political pacification of Irish Catholics by means of mass conversion, only served to increase this support.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-310
JournalIrish Historical Studies
Issue number139
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 May 2007


  • Social and economic
  • improvement
  • Dublin Society
  • Bishop Francis Hutchinson


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