On the evening of 27 November 2019 the Ulster Historical Foundation hosted Ulster, America and the Enlightenment: From Feux de Joie to the Belfast Harp Festival. The venue was, appropriately, First Presbyterian Church in Rosemary Street, one of Belfast’s finest Georgian buildings. Beginning with a drinks reception, the cultural atmosphere of Belfast’s radical ‘Golden Age’ was ushered in by Belfast harpist Edel Brady who reprised the traditional airs of the Belfast Harp Festival of 1792.

Ulster America and the Enlightenment

This was followed by three talks which explored and celebrated Belfast’s connection to the wider world during the ‘Age of Reason’. Two of the talks were delivered by Trustees of the Foundation, Dr Frank Costello and Dr Eamon Phoenix, on, respectively, ‘The Enlightenment, the American Revolution and the Society of United Irishmen’ and ‘The critical social, cultural and political atmosphere in Belfast and the province of Ulster during the period 1789–1795’. The third talk was given by Dr James Dingley, Chairman of the Frances Hutcheson Institute, on ‘Francis Hutcheson and the shaping of Enlightenment thinking in Ireland, Britain and Europe’.