• D. G. Boyce
Part of the Problems in Focus Series book series (PFS)


Continuity and change are an essential part of the world of politics: revolution is an optional extra. The history of Ireland under the Union seems largely an affair of the former; yet the latter, revolution, casts its shadow back over the preceding century, and still influences the destinies of Ireland today. Between 1916 and 1923 Ireland met the criteria of revolutionary activity set even by those most exacting analysts, Arendt, Sorel and Fanon: that political change through violence is the single defining characteristic of revolution, or that if there is no actual violent uprising, then it must nonetheless involve ‘some other kind of skulduggery’.1 Violence and skulduggery were not in short supply in Ireland after the 1916 rising; and the birth of two new states, Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State, was rendered possible by the use of force, both clandestine and overt. It might seem perverse, therefore, to speak of the ‘revolution in Ireland’ between 1879 and 1923; 1916 or 1912 might appear a more appropriate starting point. Armed men, drilling, ambush, rebellion, civil war, ‘the crowd’, are all the stock-in-trade of those whose subject is the analysis of revolution.


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Isaac Kramnick, ‘Reflections on Revolution: definition and explanation in recent scholarship’, History and Theory, 11 (1972) 27–8.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ibid., p. 31.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    E. Kedourie, ‘The Lure of Revolutionary Revolution’, in The Crossman Confessions and other Essays (1984) pp. 156–7.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Kramnick, ‘Reflections on Revolution’ pp. 59–61.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Ibid., p. 31.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    J. C. Beckett, The Making of Modern Ireland, 1603–1923, 1st edn (1966) p. 381.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    A. V. Dicey, England’s Case against Home Rule, 1st edn (1886) pp. 87–9, 136–8.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ibid., p. 139.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    D. G. Boyce, Nationalism in Ireland (1982) p. 263.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    D. Fitzpatrick, Politics and Irish Life, 1913–1921: Provincial Experience of War and Revolution (Dublin, 1977) p. 282.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Beckett, Modern Ireland, p. 427.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    A. O’Day, Parnell and the First Home Rule Episode (Dublin, 1986) p. 231.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    P. Pearse, Political Writings and Speeches (Dublin, 1966 edn) p. 98.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Lieutenant Langan, in Sean O’Casey, The Plough and the Stars in Three Plays (1963) p. 178.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Pearse, Political Writings, p. 345.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    F. O’Donoghue, No Other Law: the story of Liam Lynch and the Irish Republican Army, 1916–1923 (Dublin, 1954) p. 18.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Boyce, Nationalism, pp. 315–19.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    To paraphrase de Valera; see Boyce, Nationalism, p. 318.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Blanche E. C. Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour, vol. II (1939) p. 288.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    P. Bew, Ch. 10 this volume, p. 232.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kedourie, ‘The Lure…’, p. 154.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    R. W. Pethybridge, Academics and Revolution (Swansea, 1976) p. 7.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Tom Paine, The Rights of Man (1983 Pelican edn) p. 168.Google Scholar

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© D. G. Boyce 1988

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  • D. G. Boyce

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