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Leadership, the Middle Classes and Ulster Unionism since the Late-Nineteenth Century

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Politics, Society and the Middle Class in Modern Ireland

Abstract

It is generally observed by scholars and commentators that the so-called middle class took control of Ulster unionism in the early twentieth century — and abandoned it, and politics generally, from the outbreak of political violence in the late 1960s.1 Put like this, it is an intriguing juxtaposition, but it is not appropriate, for reasons this essay attempts to outline. Such a task, of course, is fraught with pitfalls. Theorists have long questioned how historians apply ‘class’ as an analytical tool and not many scholars have given serious attention to Ulster unionism. If these are considerable obstacles, then they are not impassable. First, the assumptions on which this essay is based are drawn from the modernisation model of social change. The rationale for adopting this approach is provided by Joseph Lee, who, in applying the term to his own work, hoped that it ‘may prove immune to the parochial preoccupations implicit in equally elusive and more emotive concepts’.2 Second, the modernisation model, after Max Weber, argues that social change leads to political change, enabling this essay to focus on class and leadership. Third, this aim allows the essay to utilise existing scholarship on Ulster unionism, most of which concentrates on those who led the movement.

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Notes

  1. Brian Walker, ‘Finnigan’s awake: E.S. Finnigan and Ulster politics, 1874–1892’, New Hibernia Review, 4 (2000), pp. 66–84.

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  2. Andrew Gailey, ‘King Carson: an essay on the invention of leadership’, Irish Historical Studies, 30 (1996), pp. 66–87.

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  3. Philip Ollerenshaw, ‘Businessmen and the development of Ulster unionism, 1886–1921’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 28, 1 (2000), p. 13.

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Fintan Lane (editor of Saothar, the journal of Irish labour history)

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© 2010 N. C. Fleming

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Fleming, N.C. (2010). Leadership, the Middle Classes and Ulster Unionism since the Late-Nineteenth Century. In: Lane, F. (eds) Politics, Society and the Middle Class in Modern Ireland. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230273917_12

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230273917_12

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-349-28385-9

  • Online ISBN: 978-0-230-27391-7

  • eBook Packages: Palgrave History CollectionHistory (R0)

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