Matthew Harris, Fenianism and land agitation in the west of Ireland
in Land questions in modern Ireland
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This chapter considers the political career of one of the Land War's pivotal figures, Matthew Harris. Harris was one of the Fenians leaders who felt that an agrarian agitation could be made into a powerful revolutionary weapon outside of parliament, and that lay beyond the control of the constitutional politicians. Much effort is given to showing how the establishment of the Ballinasloe Tenants’ Defence Association in May 1876 helped to consolidate the alliance between the Fenians and small farmers that became a critical foundation of the early Land League. The opposition Harris encountered, for class and political reasons, is explored. The chapter also reflects on how revealing biography can be in the study of popular agrarian movements.

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