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Irish Peasants

Violence and Political Unrest, 1780–1914

Samuel Clark

Publication Year: 1983

"The strength of this volume cannot be conveyed by an itemisation of its contents; for what it provides is an incisive commentary on the newly-recognised landmarks of Irish agrarian history in the modern period. . . . The importance, even indispensability, of this achievement is compounded by exemplary editing."—Roy Foster, London Times Literary Supplement

"As a whole, the volume demonstrates the wealth, complexity, and sophistication of Irish rural studies. The book is essential reading for anyone involved in modern Irish history. It will also serve as an excellent introduction to this rich field for scholars of other peasant communities and all interested in problems of economic and political developments."—American Historical Review

"A milestone in the evolution of Irish social history. There is a remarkable consistency of style and standard in the essays. . . . This is truly history from the grassroots."—Timothy P. O'Neill, Studia Hibernica


Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii-viii

Editors and Contributors

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pp. ix

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pp. xi

For their kind permission to consult or quote from material which is in their ownership or possession, or of which they own the copyright, the contributors wish to thank the following: the Duke of Abercorn; Major-General Sir Allan Adair, Bt.; the Earl of Belmore; Messrs. Carleton, Atkinson & Sloan; ...


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pp. xiii

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General Introduction

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pp. 3-22

For the student of the Irish experience, agrarian movements, rural sectarianism, and popular political unrest in the period from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries are subjects that deserve particular attention at the present time. This volume, which undertakes to pull together divergent strands ...

I. The Tradition of Violence

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pp. 25-36

Ireland became almost synonymous with rebellion during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Every decade between 1760 and 1840 was punctuated by at least one major outbreak of rural discontent. Though these upheavals generally lacked regional organization, they were regional in the sense ...

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1. Taxation and Disaffection in Late Eighteenth-Century Ireland

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pp. 37-63

Tax revolts have had a long history. Grievances about taxation and tribute have formed the basis of tactical class and regional alliances against imperial and central authorities probably as long as coins have been minted. Resentment against a crushing load of public charges has traditionally been assigned a high place ...

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2. Caravats and Shanavests: Whiteboyism and Faction Fighting in East Munster, 1802-11

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pp. 64-101

Small farmers and rural laborers in prefamine Ireland thought of themselves as one distinct class—as "the poor." Most laborers were in fact small farmers of a kind, receiving their wages in land, renting con acre plots, or holding bona fide farms of up to about 10 acres. For their part, small farmers were sometimes ...

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3. Pastorini and Captain Rock: Millenarianism and Sectarianism in the Rockite Movement of 1821-4.

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pp. 102-140

During the last twenty or thirty years social scientists have abundantly demonstrated the importance of millenarian beliefs and collective action based on such beliefs in the culture of disparate societies in nearly all parts of the world and in many historical eras. Scholars have also shown that millennialism is ...

II. Land and Religion in Ulster

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pp. 143-154

Ever since the seventeenth century the north of Ireland has been different from the rest of the country. What initially set the north apart was of course the early seventeenth-century plantations of Ulster from Scotland and England. As a result, the Gaelic order was overthrown and replaced by a new society ...

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4. The Armagh Troubles, 1784-95

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pp. 155-191

The sectarian conflict in County Armagh between Protestant bands called Peep-of-Day Boys and Catholic bands styling themselves Defenders is known to students of Irish history primarily because of its apparent impact on larger historical developments. Defender societies arose in numerous parts of Ireland ...

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5. The Agarian Opposition in Ulster Politics, 1848-87

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pp. 192-229

At what point did a pan-Protestant opposition to Irish self-government become inevitable? There exists a tradition in popular historiography which claims that the critical period is 1879-82, when Michael Davitt's National Land League failed to establish itself as a major force among the Ulster Protestant tenantry, ...

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6. The Land Question and Elections in Ulster, 1868-86

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pp. 230-268

Many commentators on nineteenth-century Ulster drew attention to the divisions between Protestants and Catholics in the province. Some, such as William Sharman Crawford, argued that political differences between the denominations were unnecessary and wrong, and that the question of agrarian reform ...

III. Changing Lines of Cleavage and Cohesion

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pp. 271-284

In the same decade that the landed elite regained political hegemony in the Protestant-dominated areas of Ulster, resurgent nationalism and agrarian radicalism were fundamentally recasting the established political and social order in the remainder of the country. By 1886 the political power of the landlord class ...

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7. Land League Power: The Tralee Poor-Law Election of 1881

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pp. 285-310

Historians are familiar with the Land League agitation of 1879-82 as one of the major landmarks in modern agrarian protest, a movement which not only figured prominently in Irish history but was also one of the most effective of its kind in nineteenth-century Europe. Consequently, considerable scholarly attention ...

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8. A Marginal Figure: The Irish Ruler Laborer

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pp. 311-338

In 1894 a writer in the Lyceum observed that two groups in Irish society could not be ignored or forgotten: the farmer, since "our own prosperity" was bound up with his, and the "sturdy organised artisan," who was quick to rebel when aggrieved. "But of the unskilled agricultural labourer in Ireland," ...

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9. Farmers, Traders, and Agricultural Politics in Pre-Independence Ireland

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pp. 339-373

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century Irish political institutions were being recast in a form that brought them into a more sensitive relationship with the body of popular political feeling. The ballot act of 1872, though it did not initiate major new political trends,1 at least lowered the cost of ...

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10. The Cleavage between Graziers and Peasants in the Land Struggle, 1890-1910

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pp. 374-418

During the second half of the nineteenth century the commercial sector of Irish agriculture significantly expanded. More and more holdings were run as commercial enterprises with the objective of raising a cash surplus. The essential feature of such enterprises was that the farmer sold for a cash return ...

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The Unreaped Harvest

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pp. 419-434

If this volume has demonstrated the richness and complexity of agrarian rebellion, rural sectarianism, and popular political unrest in Ireland between the late eighteenth and the early twentieth centuries, it will have served one of its main purposes. But the contributors to this collection as well as its editors ...


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pp. 435-454

E-ISBN-13: 9780299093730
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299093747

Publication Year: 1983

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Peasants -- Political activity -- Ireland -- History -- 20th century.
  • Peasants -- Political activity -- Ireland -- History -- 19th century.
  • Peasant uprisings -- Ireland -- History -- 18th century.
  • Peasant uprisings -- Ireland -- History -- 19th century.
  • Violence -- Ireland -- History -- 18th century.
  • Peasants -- Political activity -- Ireland -- History -- 18th century.
  • Peasant uprisings -- Ireland -- History -- 20th century.
  • Violence -- Ireland -- History -- 19th century.
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