The many dimensions of the Irish Question, 18001922, constituted the most emotion-laden problem in British politics, often to the detriment of other imperial interests—a Gordian knot only severed by the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922. In this volume Lawrence J. McCaffrey presents a coherent view of the evolution of Irish nationalism since 1800 and the impact of the Irish Question on British culture, politics, and institutions.
The emotional nexus of the Irish Question was the religious issue, but McCaffrey believes that nationalism emerged from the attempt of the Irish Protestant minority, supported by Britain, to maintain religious, political, economic, and social ascendancy over a deprived and resentful majority. Although British concessions to Irish agitation removed many grievances—granting to Ireland virtual religious equality, along with substantial social, economic, and political reforms—nationalism, often frustrated in its attempts to secure reform and freedom, assumed an increasingly rigid position. Nationalists were not willing to settle for less than self-government, and as constitutional methods failed to achieve this goal, violence seemed the only other alternative.
The bitter dissensions created by the Irish Question left permanent marks upon British politics and institutions. The efforts of two Prime Ministers, Peel and Gladstone, to resolve the conflict split their parties, thus contributing to political confusion and instability. But the Irish nationalistBritish Liberal alliance achieved improvement in the condition of Ireland and speeded advancement of democracy in Britain. And the attempt of British politicians to deal with the economic and social aspects of the Irish Question undermined laissez faire and encouraged the progress of the welfare state in both islands. On the other hand, the challenge of Irish nationalism sustained and stimulated the no-Popery roots of British nativism, making it an influential factor in politics until early in the twentieth century.
The Irish Question, McCaffrey believes, has particular relevance in our contemporary world of emerging nations, wars of liberation, and tensions between majorities and minorities. Ireland offers an early example of the dreams of cultural nationalists becoming realities and of the sobering fact that ideological revolutionaries often make poor practical politicians.
Catholic Emancipation, 18001829
Famine, Revolution, Republicanism, 18451870
Home Rule, 18701880
Home Rule, 18801906
The Crisis of Irish Nationalism, 19061914
The Rose Tree, 19141922
Unfinished Business, 1922–1994
A shrewd, balanced, and richly informed history of Ireland from the 1800 Act of Union to the day before yesterday—and with an informed glance into tomorrow.... Written with clarity, grace, and a concern for the lived experience of the Irish people, all of them.... Beyond question the one essential overview of the last two centuries.~Thomas Flanagan, author of Tenants of Time
An excellent and well-written survey of Irish history over the last two hundred years.~Emmet Larkin, University of Chicago
An insightful and generally dispassionate essay that captures, condenses, and clarifies the ambiguities and contradictions that have made 'the Troubles' in post-1922 Ireland so incomprehensible to so many people.... A 'must acquisition' for readers interested in the Anglo-Irish relationship since the Act of Union.~Thomas E. Hachey, author of Britain and Irish Separatism