The Irish Establishment 1879-1914

Format: Paperback
Pub. Date: 2020-08-30
Publisher(s): Oxford University Press
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The Irish Establishment is a study of the country's most powerful men and women in the years 1879 to 1914: who they were, how they gained their power, and how the composition of this elite society changed in the tumultuous period between the Land War and the beginning of the Great War.

Despite the enormous shifts in economic and political power that were taking place in the middling sections of Irish society, Fergus Campbell shows that the Irish establishment remained remarkably static and unchanged. Whilst the prominent landlord class and the Protestant middle class (particularly businessmen and professionals) retained their positions of power, the rising Catholic middle class was largely - although not entirely - excluded from the elite. Through focusing on specific groups - landlords, businessmen, religious leaders, politicians, police officers, and senior civil servants - and examining their collective biographies, Campbell explores the changing nature of Ireland's elite society.

The Irish Establishment challenges the received narrative of these Irish elite classes. Traditional historiography holds that the members of the rising Catholic middle class were becoming successfully integrated into the Irish establishment by the beginning of the twentieth century, and that the Irish Revolution (1916-23) was a perverse turn of events that undermined an otherwise happy and democratic polity. Campbell offers the opposite: that the revolution was not an undermining of a stable society, but rather a direct result of structural inequality and ethnic discrimination that converted well-educated young Catholics from ambitious students into frustrated revolutionaries.

By challenging received narratives and drawing evidence from a broad range of social groups, The Irish Establishment offers an exciting and fresh account of Irish society in the years 1879 to 1914, and offers the first full assessment of elite groups in Ireland in the lead up to the revolution.

Author Biography

Fergus Campbell, Lecturer in Modern British and Irish History, Newcastle University

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