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The study of Ireland in the 1790s is still in its heroic phase. To say so is not to deny the quality of the scholarship devoted to this period, but simply to suggest the tremendous range and complexity of the problems thrown up by this crowded decade. These were years which witnessed the emergence of an assertive middle-class catholic leadership, a multi-pronged challenge to the ‘Protestant Ascendancy’ (a challenge which forced that ascendancy to define itself), rebellion and the extinction of the Irish parliament. Furthermore, the nineties were significant as well as dramatic. In this respect Ireland, so often remarkable for its unique development, is typical of the wider ‘Atlantic world’.1 The importance of this period in French history requires no comment, but it is worth noting that it has also been seen as decisive in the making of the English working class. In Ireland the legacy of the last decade of the eighteenth century is strong. Both the Orange Order and the ‘physical force’, separatist, republican tradition originated during these years.
KeywordsEighteenth Century Lower Class Social Revolution Consummate Politician French History
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