Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
McMahon, Timothy G.
This study examines the creation and development of Irish Nationalisms in the post-Famine period, focusing on the period 1860-1882 in the Irish counties of Mayo, Sligo, and Roscommon. In this study I argue that that Irish nationalists and British imperialists held remarkably similar views about the ambiguous racial status of the Irish, and in an effort to ameliorate those concerns, nationalists sought to impose standards of behavior derived from the colonial metropole, furthering the efforts of that same metropole to destroy indigenous ways of life. While Ireland was in this period a part of the United Kingdom, the Irish population occupied an ambivalent space in British thinking about race, fitting only imperfectly into emerging ideas of British identity. During the century, the Irish became the focus narratives which presented them as a “Celtic” race, prone to excessive violence and fundamentally inferior to the “Germanic” populations of the remainder of the United Kingdom. In response, a variety of Irish nationalists presented Irish poverty and agrarian crime as the result of an unjust socio-political system rather than Irish racial inferiority. This process reached its height during the Irish Land War of 1879-1882, when nationalists from all political traditions offered the same argument, that Irishmen needed to peacefully agitate for reform of the land system and the prevention of evictions in order to prove the fitness of the Irish people as a whole for self-government. However, the popular response during those years did not confine itself to the methods proposed by nationalist leaders. Women played a particularly active role in all stages of the agitation and agrarian violence, often undertaken in a communal fashion played a central role in popular resistance to eviction and the use of land previously held by evicted tenants. In response to these developments, nationalist leaders worked to control the narrative of the period through the nationalist press and later retrospectives of the period. In so doing they presented the Land War as a period of disciplined, masculine action which could support Irish claims to whiteness and self-rule rather than as it actually was, a period of indigenous resistance to colonial rule.
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