The question of land in Ireland has long been at the heart of political, social and cultural debates. In eleven essays a group of authors including some of the most influential historians and social scientists of modern Ireland, and up-and-coming scholars, explore Ireland's land questions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The book is divided into three sections, the first of which presents the current state of our understanding of the issue of land in Ireland in two survey essays that cover the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The book's second section presents a series of reflections in which historians and social scientists look back on how they have approached the topic of land in Ireland in their earlier writings. A third section presents some innovative new research on various aspects of the Irish land question.
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.
a short period as each benefitted
in different ways from the agitation. In other words, Clark and Bew found
that there were significant divisions and tensions in rural Irish society and
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MUP FINAL PROOF – <STAGE>, 08/01/2013, SPi
INTRODUCTION AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
that – broadly speaking – Irish nationalist and agrarianmovements from
the late nineteenth century onwards were riven by internal conflicts.
David Jones took this discussion even further by exploring for the first
time the economic
increase in the level of physical violence utilized by the post-1798 agrarianmovements. Moreover, the long-term presence of radical emissaries in the
region, combined with the heightened anticipation of a French invasion, lent
ominous political undertones to these traditional acts.
Ultimately, I hope to do for the early 1800s what Smyth and Curtin did
for the 1790s – to view politicization and political action in as broad a
context as possible, beyond formal organizations.
1 For the Volunteer Movement, see P. D. H. Smyth, ‘The
, as witnessed in many parts of the
British Isles, there was a revolutionary rise in agricultural productivity. This
was connected with the continuous migration of people off the land, usually
labourers and peasantries and their offspring. These original agrarianmovements
were integral and essential to the activation of modern economic growth and
At the same time there was fundamental demographic expansion – a massive,
unprecedented growth of numbers far in excess of rural labour needs. The much
more efficient new agriculture in the modernising economy
condescending to the ordinary people of rural Ireland and clearly partial
towards the British state.To my mind, there were certainly sections of Irish
nationalist and agrarianmovements in the past that had committed horrendous acts, but those movements had also campaigned for the economic
well-being and political rights of the ordinary people, and this was rarely
acknowledged in the discussions I had with revisionist historians or in
some of the key revisionist books published in the 1970s and 1980s.
I was also concerned that prominent revisionists appeared to believe
Easter 1916 and the advent of post-Catholic Ireland
words, the gender politics that
guide depictions of the Easter Rising in At Swim, Two Boys and
A Star Called Henry summon the spirit of nationalist revolution
to present-day Ireland, only to undermine the specter of Catholic
nationalism’s oppressive reality.
1 In David Lloyd’s, ‘Regarding Ireland in a Postcolonial Frame,’ in Ireland
After History. Critical Conditions: Field Day Essays and Monographs
9. Ed. Seamus Deane. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame
Press, 1999, p. 37, he observes ‘That [Social] movements – agrarianmovements, women’s movements
evident in the anti-tithe campaign of the winter of 1798–1799 compares
quite unfavourably with that of its most recent antecedent, the widespread
Rightboy movement of the 1780s. The Rightboys, who similarly focused
much of their attention on the issue of tithes, were responsible for as few as
four deaths during the six years they were active in County Cork between
1785 and 1791.40
What then explains the willingness of post-1798 agrarianmovements in
south Munster to utilize extreme physical violence? As illustrated above, the
post-1798 agrarian secret societies in south