‘Opening speeches’ introduces the historiographical background and
methodological contribution of Men on trial. Masculinity is a growing field
of study, but histories of masculinity in Ireland are still rare. This book
uses newspaper reports of court cases to explore how men constructed their
identities in legal space and this chapter introduces this source. It
questions the utility of ‘hegemonic masculinities’ as a model for
understanding gender identity in colonial and hierarchical contexts.
Instead, it proposes the utility of a performative model of masculinity,
which places emphasis on identity as embodied experience, incorporating
emotion, corporeality, speech and character, and which is located in place.
It argues for gender as a productive dynamic in the formation of legal and
social power relationships within early nineteenth-century Ireland.