Dr Alison Forrestal

Project Supervisor

Alison Forrestal has been a lecturer in the Department of History since August 2006, having lectured for one year at the University of Warwick and for six years at Durham University. She completed a research masters in History at NUI Maynooth and a doctorate in History at the University of Manchester, under the supervision of Professor Joseph Bergin.


Alison teaching the following undergraduate courses:

Second Year: State and Society in Early Modern Europe, 1555-1685

France in the Age of Richelieu and Mazarin

Third Year: Catholic Identity in Early Modern Europe

War, Religion and Society in France, 1572-1625

Alison has supervised doctoral research on anti-Catholicism in nineteenth-century north-east England, liturgical ritualism in the English Reformation and Irish clerical networks in Rome and the Atlantic colonies during the seventeenth century. She would welcome enquiries from those interested in research on seventeenth-century France and the history of the Catholic church and Catholic religion and culture in early modern Europe.


Alison's research interests lie in early modern Catholic history, with particular specialisms in Catholic identity and culture and in the historical development of catholicism in France and, to a lesser extent, in Ireland.

Vincent de Paul (1581-1660) and His Associates: The Formation of Identity and Culture in Early Modern Catholicism

Funded by the British Academy and the NUI Galway Millennium Research Fund, Alison is currently completing a project on the career of Vincent de Paul and the development of social values and activism within the 'associative culture' of early modern Catholics.

Project Summary

The overarching objective of this project is to deepen historical understanding of the character and evolution of early modern catholicism through study of the identity, values and comportment of a leading ecclesiastical figure and his sizeable circle. Therefore, the project comprises two elements: a composite biographical study of Vincent de Paul (to be published as Vincent de Paul: An Icon in the Making), whose social engagement ranged from the foundation of religious associations to the direction of conscience, education of priests and bishops, promotion of public welfare and counsellorship of the Bourbon royal family. This study, informed by contemporary scholarly writing on the cultural identity and force of the Catholic Reformation and, more broadly, early modern catholicism, will in turn form the basis of a study of de Paul's legacy within Catholic society during the pre-Revolutionary era (to be published as Creating Catholicism: The Cultural Mission of Catholics 1617-1789).

De Paul's popularity and iconic status have tended to inhibit original interpretations of his life and historical legacy. Expanding on the two standard biographies of the twentieth century, both by members of the Congregation of the Mission (Coste: 1932; Roman: 1981), the specific research objectives of this project's first phase are to identify the distinct Catholic ethos that de Paul elaborated, expose the ways in which this ethos informed his conduct and situate his experience of theological and spiritual anthropology, moral assertions, order and organisation within the cultural values of the Catholic Reformation. This approach makes unprecedented evaluation of primary sources that have not been coherently assessed since the 1660s. Equally, this thorough analysis of de Paul's work is informed by contemporary scholarly writing on themes such as gender, mentalities, discipline and marginalisation, religious orthodoxy, laicisation, social stratification and state formation. By this means, the study integrates systematic assessment of de Paul's spiritual and moral principles and attitudes with his life's narrative, but simultaneously demonstrates means by which pre-eminent Catholics moulded church, state and society after Trent: illumination of the symbiosis between the attitudes and behaviour that forged de Paul's identity and life is set within the political, social and religious context of the Catholic Reformation and early modern France.

The biographical study also provides material that will be fundamental to the project's second stage: an investigation of the missionary strategies developed by de Paul's priests, Daughters and lay affiliates and an examination of the formation and perpetuation of their vision of catholicism in European and non-European regions before and after de Paul's death. This research proposition involves using the archival range of correspondence, missionary Relations and newsletters to decipher the principles, methods and influence of these resourceful evangelists and moralists in the 'associative culture' of early modern catholicism. Specifically, the research will map and analyse the extensive number of Vincentian ecclesiastical and lay communities and associations (Congrégation de la Mission, Filles de la Charité and Dames de la Charité) established between 1617 and 1789. It will also examine the use of charity as a religious (devotional) expression, a distinct Catholic cultural value and a primary form of 'social capital and currency' amongst 'Vincentian' Catholics and associations.

After the League: Politics and Religion in Early Modern France

Alison is co-editor (with Dr. Eric Nelson of the State University of Missouri) of After the League: Politics and Religion in Early Modern France, which will be published by Palgrave in 2008, shortly before the 400th anniversary of the assassination of Henri IV, the first Bourbon king of France.

Project Summary

This collection of essays offers a fresh examination of the period between the accession of Henri IV to the French throne in 1589 and the Day of Dupes in 1630. It aims to reconsider the neglected crucible in which two of the most important developments in ancien régime France - the ambitions of the absolutist monarchy and the establishment of the seventeenth-century French Catholic Reformation - took shape. Bringing together leading French, British, American and Canadian scholars, the volume provides a coherent and nuanced exploration of the close connections between the re-establishment of the authority of the French monarchy and the revival of the French Catholic church during the first four decades of Bourbon rule. The ten original essays are designed to provide readers with a sense of how particular political and religious developments became battlegrounds on which the French polity was renewed and redefined during these years.

Within a decade of his accession to the throne, Henri IV had secured a dramatic transformation in the political and religious situation in France through his defeat of the Catholic League as a political movement and his establishment of a denominational co-existence in the kingdom that lasted until 1685. Comparing his reign with the bloodshed and political chaos of the Wars of Religion, historians have tended to emphasise that this was a period of pacification, reconstruction, consolidation and stability for the royal government. They have also pointed to the importance of this period for the resurgence of the Catholic church in France. Battered by the material and spiritual dislocation of the religious wars during the second half of the sixteenth-century, the Gallican church rapidly returned to a position of cultural eminence that was unrivalled by the Protestant presence in the kingdom and laid the groundwork for its leading role in the world of Catholic renewal under Bourbon kings. This series of interrelated developments provided the context for the reformation and redefinition of the fractured French polity at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

However, while historians of both the religious wars and seventeenth-century France readily recognize the importance of the opening decades of Bourbon rule for long-term developments in the political and religious culture of France, they rarely choose to make it a focus of their work and, in fact, tend to concentrate either on the decades before or after this period. This volume of essays elicits contributions that are designed to address this period on its own terms. In doing so, it includes original research on key issues for both the conclusion of the Wars of Religion and the development of seventeenth-century French political and religious culture. The essay contributions are placed under four thematic headings, and present distinct but complementary perspectives on the adjustment of individuals, social groups and regions to formal religious and political concord from the reign of Henri IV to the dramatic watershed of the Day of Dupes under the personal rule of Louis XIII. Collectively, the individual contributions to this volume explore the multiple new political relationships established after the League between the crown and key constituencies in the kingdom in a manner that provides a revealing look at the political and social foundations of Bourbon absolutism. As part of this exploration, the essays also re-examine and reinterpret the re-assertion and recuperation of royal authority through political pacification and redefinition of kingship as well as the possibilities of legal toleration, clemency, reconciliation and co-operation in government amongst former Leaguers and Huguenots in regions that had been socially and politically split before the promulgation of the Edict of Nantes. Finally, the essays provide nuanced examinations of how religion played a central role in defining this new political world through the channeling of dévot religious sensibilities into new charitable and missionary initiatives.

Other Professional Activities

Alison is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a committee member of the Ecclesiastical History Society and a member of the Society for Reformation Studies. She also acts as a specialist referee for several early modern journals and international academic presses.