Townend, Paul A. 1967–

views updated

Townend, Paul A. 1967–


Born June 20, 1967, in Lancaster, PA; son of John (a chemist) and Mary Theresa (a psychologist) Townend; married Virginia Strosser, 1991; children: Arthur, Theobald, Jane. Education: Colgate University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1989; University of Chicago, M.A., 1995, Ph.D., 1999. Religion: Roman Catholic.


Office—Department of History, Morton 234, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC 28403. E-mail—[email protected].


Villanova University, Villanova, PA, Arthur Ennis Fellow, 2000-01; University of North Carolina at Wilmington, assistant professor, 2001-05, associate professor, 2005—.


American Historical Association, American Conference on Irish Studies, North American Conference on British Studies.


Thomas J. Watson Fellow, 1989; Mellon Foundation Fellow, 1997; Von Holst Fellowship, 1999; James Donnelly Award, American Conference on Irish Studies, 2003, for Father Mathew, Temperance, and Irish Identity.


Father Mathew, Temperance, and Irish Identity, Irish Academic Press (Portland, OR), 2002.

Contributor to The Written Word and Irish Historical Memory, 1870-1922, edited by Lawrence M. McBride, Four Courts Press (Dublin, Ireland), 2003; contributor to The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World, Everything Irish Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Irish in America. Author of articles for scholarly journals, including Past and Present, New Hiberia Review, Catholic Historical Review, and Eire/Ireland.


Paul A. Townend's first book, Father Mathew, Temperance, and Irish Identity, explores the period of the 1830s and 1840s in Ireland, where Father Theobald Mathew, a popular Roman Catholic priest, headed the Cork Total Abstinence Society (CTAS). CTAS was a temperance society that at one point claimed several million members who pledged total abstinence from alcohol. Teetotaling was seen by many of these people as an act of Irish nationalism, a way to help the country achieve its goals of wealth and growth, versus the extreme poverty the country had been mired in for generations.

The organization's success was measured in the notable decline of alcohol production and sales during the time, along with a corresponding rise in reading rooms and tea houses. Father Mathew held large public gatherings, parades, and ceremonies to attract people to the movement, and many believed he had the power to work miracles. However, it remained largely a movement of the lower classes, with wealthier Irish citizens holding themselves apart from the idea of temperance. There was also a religious divide; CTAS was founded by Quakers, and Father Mathew aside, the Catholic Church did not reinforce the organization's mission—a noticeable slight in the overwhelmingly Catholic country—and a sign that the church did not approve of Father Mathew (who was a Capuchin) and his tendency to put his abstinence crusade ahead of official church policy.

When CTAS started to lose adherents, Father Mathew traveled to England and the United States to garner new supporters and financing. But by 1843 the movement ran out of steam, and alcohol consumption crept back up to prior levels. The Great Famine soon took hold of the country plunging them into a fight for survival, and the abstinence movement faded away completely upon the death of Father Mathew in 1856.

Townend provides geographical information regarding the activity of CTAS in each region and many details of Father Mathew's financial blunders, all of which provide "an impressively rich context," according to David M. Fahey in the Catholic Historical Review. Maureen Murphy stated in the Irish Literary Supplement that Townend "adds to our knowledge of the shaping force of the Roman Catholic church in Ireland in the nineteenth century, and he brings objectivity and empathy to his study of Fr. Mathew and his crusade. It is a pleasure to read this study of that singular social and moral revolution in pre-famine Ireland."



Albion, winter, 2004, R.V. Comerford, review of Father Mathew, Temperance, and Irish Identity, p. 723.

American Historical Review, April, 2003, Deirdre M. Moloney, review of Father Mathew, Temperance, and Irish Identity, pp. 581-583.

Catholic Historical Review, April, 2003, David M. Fahey, review of Father Mathew, Temperance, and Irish Identity, p. 310.

Irish Literary Supplement, spring, 2003, Maureen Murphy, review of Father Mathew, Temperance, and Irish Identity, p. 12.

Reference & Research Book News, August, 2002, review of Father Mathew, Temperance, and Irish Identity, p. 125.