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Ireland 1800-1850


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[Ireland 1800-1850 Copyright 2001 by Desmond Keenan. Book available from and]

  This period was not one which attracted nationalist historians. There were few episodes which were useful for propaganda purposes, but these few were eagerly seized on and treated in a treated in a one-sided manner. Such were the Act of Union, Emmett's rebellion, the struggle for Catholic Emancipation, the 'Tithe War', the Famine, the Repeal Movement and the attempted revolution in 1848. Some like Emmett's rebellion and the events of 1848 were minor matters and involving only a minority. The others were treated only from the nationalist point of view, ignoring the fact that the Government and most Protestants might have equally valid points of view. The treatment of Catholic Emancipation simply repeated the claims of Daniel O'Connell that it was secured almost entirely by his efforts which was far from the truth. Major events in Irish history like the Napoleonic Wars, the development of the police, the great Civil Survey and Valuation, the development of education, the participation of Irishmen in the government of their country, the attempts to re-organise the holding of land, and to develop roads, markets, fisheries, industry and agriculture were largely skipped over. Above all, the ever recurring outbreaks of agrarian terrorism and crime which form the background to the development of modern Ireland were glossed over.

    Recently I came across in a book describing the author's childhood on the Donegal coast a reference to a fishing pier built by 'the British Government' in the nineteenth century. The pier had, of course been built by the Irish Government at the time. But republican ideology dictated that any Government had to be either British or republican Irish.

    This book proceeds systematically to describe, as is done in English and American histories, the chief events in each successive ministry or administration. First the activities of the ministry are described, and then the activities of various groups or individuals, so that the development of Ireland as a whole may be traced with as little distortion as possible. This book should be studied in conjunction with its companion volume Pre-Famine Ireland: Social Structure which describes the various groups considered.


Copyright Desmond J. Keenan, B.S.Sc.; Ph.D. ;.London, U.K.