Partition of Ireland, 1900-1925
Historiography and the partition of
Ireland, 1900-1925
Historiographical trends
Home Rule Crisis, 1900-1914
Politics and war, 1914-18
Revolution and state-building, 1919-25
New directions
1. Historiographical trends
• Political history remains dominant
- But shift away from study of high politics (with
exceptions: survey histories, biographies, parties,
movements and institutions)
- Greater focus on popular politics (particularly the local
study for experience of war and revolution)
• Growth of social history (migration, gender, medical
history, poverty, welfare, family, sexuality)
• Growth of cultural history (popular culture, sport
emerging as new areas)
• Decline in economic history
2. Home Rule crisis: key issues
and debates
• Why did Home Rule fail? Why was it replaced by republicanism?
Why was there a revolution? What did the revolution change? How
predictable – or avoidable (violence, partition) – were these events?
- ‘Revisionist’ historiography of 1970s and 1980s successfully
challenges traditional nationalist narrative of the ‘long gestation’
inevitably leading to revolution
- Revisionists emphasise impact of Home Rule crisis, Great War, and
Rising in destabilising otherwise viable political movement
- But trend in more recent (post-revisionist?) research to explore
weaknesses within IPP and resilience of Fenianism:
e.g. M.J. Kelly’s Fenian Ideal argues that home rule was never as
popular as idea of independent Ireland
Michael Wheatley’s Nationalism and the Irish Party argues that
rhetoric of ‘Redmondism’ had less grassroots appeal among Irish
Party MPs and supporters than popular nationalist rhetoric
Politics and war, 1914-18: the
Great War
• Irish experience of Great War relatively neglected
subject for a long period
• Revisionist work of recent decades sought to challenge
simplistic narratives of Protestant loyalty and Catholic
- e.g. by studying how recruitment was shaped more by
socio-economic than political factors (David Fitzpatrick)
- detailed studies of military experience (Tim Bowman)
- studies of political and cultural impact (Keith Jeffery)
• Recent trend (related to political context?) emphasises
shared Catholic and Protestant experiences (e.g. John
Horne, Our War), particularly notable in focus on issues
relating to commemoration and social memory.
Politics and war, 1914-18: the
Easter Rising
• Curiously neglected subject
- First professionally researched history
Foy and Barton’s Easter Rising (1999)
- First account by university-based
academic Charles Townshend’s Easter
1916 (2005) – 90th anniversary!
• Recent focus on popular experience of
Rising: McGarry’s The Rising (2010)
drawing on Bureau of Military History
Revolution and state-building,
1919-25 (i)
• Popular nationalist narrative of revolutionary era
unchallenged until 1970s
• David Fitzpatrick’s landmark Politics and Irish
Life, 1913-21 which uses local focus to raise
new questions:
- How much support was their for republican
ideology and violence?
- Did Sinn Fein mimic the Irish Party that it
replaced in terms of ideology and politics?
- Why did the revolution not transform society?
Revolution and state-building,
1919-25 (ii: recent trends)
• Proliferation of the local study (Longford, Cork,
Sligo, Limerick . . .
• New questions raised by Peter Hart’s radical
work (sectarianism; class; patterns of violence . .
• Focus on class and agrarian dimensions
(Fergus Campbell’s Land and Revolution and
The Irish Establishment
• The neglected north and partitionist history:
- David Fitzpatrick’s The Two Irelands
- Robert Lynch’s The Northern IRA
5. New directions
• Success of ‘myth-busting’ revisionist agenda:
- collapse of IPP, rise of SF, Irish republic no longer seen as
inevitable but contingent
- partition and revolution viewed as related to, rather than parallel
with, experience of Great War
- Irish events viewed within broader European context of decline of
empire, rise of nationalism, impact of war
• Post-revisionism? Limits of revisionism, less sceptical approach to
appeal of republicanism, popular over elite experiences
• Comparative (T.K. Wilson’s Ulster and Silesia) and transnational
approaches (Fenianism, Orangeism) over Anglocentric pespectives
• Cultural approaches: gender, masculinity, role of women
• Impact of decade of centenaries (commemoration and memory)
• New sources: BMH WS, Pension Applications, digitisation of press

Partition of Ireland, 1900-1925