Emancipated Ireland 1800-1850: The Age of O'Connell

Daniel O’Connell dominated the Irish scene for 50 years from the Act of Union to the Great Famine. Catholic Emancipation ended the ‘penal laws’ yet his Repeal agitation failed to undo the Union. Both campaigns mobilised the masses to democratic action for the first time in the modern era. Reforms, too few, too late, could not avert disaster, however. His death coincided with the Famine – starvation, disease and emigration, and abortive rebellion.


DELIVERY MODE

  • This class will be delivered online via the online platform Zoom.
  • This course requires students to have an email, a reliable internet connection, a microphone/speakers and access to a tablet, smartphone or computer.


SUGGESTED READING

  • R F Foster, Oxford History of Ireland, Oxford 1989
  • R F Foster, Oxford Illustrated History of Ireland, Oxford 1989
  • T W Moody and F X Martin eds, The Course of Irish History, 3rd edn Dublin, Mercier 1990


COURSE OUTLINE

  • Daniel O’Connell and his Significance: O’Connell’s family status, as surviving Catholic gentry, helped form a complex man: tough landlord and peaceful protester; profound Irish patriot and sincere monarchist; gentle family man and hard-nosed lawyer. It is impossible to understand modern Ireland (and modern Australia) without understanding O’Connell.
  • Union – Catholic Leader: O’Connell became a celebrated advocate before he espoused the Catholic cause, or Irish politics in general. But he always opposed the Union with Britain and any kind of violence towards lawful authority. He single-handedly made that balancing act the key element in Irish-British relations for many decades to come.
  • Liberator – Emancipation: Two decades in the doldrums, as United Kingdom politics failed to come to terms with Irish grievances, left O’Connell the undisputed leader of Irish Catholics. Getting a seat in Parliament required the removal of civil disabilities against Catholics and Dissenters alike. In the process, O’Connell’s brilliant campaign helped create the modern party system.
  • Governor – Working with Dublin Castle: O’Connell’s career need to be seen in light of Irish government and public administration, emanating from Dublin Castle. The executive Lord Lieutenant, the political Chief Secretary, and the bureaucratic Under Secretary made up the power-sharing triumvirate. The key to their roles was patronage – the dispensing of pensions, places and perquisites to supporters.
  • Agitator-General – Repeal of the Union: The impressive range of O’Connell’s political and parliamentary activities in the 1830s is exceeded only by his mobilisation of the Irish mind behind the Repeal of the Act of Union. He was a consummate strategist. O’Connell exercised his extraordinary control over a population rising rapidly to 9 millions through from courtroom techniques, parliamentary tactics and hustings style.
  • Undermined? O’Connell and Young Ireland: O’Connell’s mistake was not to breed up a successor leadership. The Young Ireland movement, at first his allies, then his critics, and finally his enemies, constituted the alternative he never allowed for. Their revolutionary uprising of 1848 occurred in the year after his death.
  • Decline – O’Connellite politics and the Famine: O’Connell’s last years reaped the effects of the economic mismanagement of Ireland over the previous century. Successive failures of the potato crop from 1845 to 1852 reduced the staple diet of the masses and government action and inaction failed to fill the gap. Political and fiscal policy justified the rulers' action but the effects on the ground were devastating.
  • Bondsman or Emancipist? Enduring Legacy: O’Connell’s death in 1847 cast a gloom over Ireland and wherever the Irish had gone. What had he left behind him, and how did subsequent generations treat their inheritance? His role of enspiriting the Irish at home included the first mass training of a population in democratic processes. What had he left behind him, and how did subsequent generations treat their inheritance?


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Analyse the dominant political personality in early nineteenth century Ireland.
  2. Identify key issues in Irish-British relations from the Act of Union (1801) through the cataclysmic Great Irish Famine (1845–52).
  3. Explain the cultural and economic impacts of O’Connell and the politics of the period, including some Australian outcomes.
$232 Limited / $209

<p>Daniel O’Connell dominated the Irish scene for 50 years from the Act of Union to the Great Famine. Catholic Emancipation ended the ‘penal laws’ yet his Repeal agitation failed to undo the Union.

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06 May

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