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Union to Partition: 1800–1920

  • John D. Brewer
  • Gareth I. Higgins

Abstract

Nineteenth-century Ireland showed great continuity with its past. All its old conflicts continued, its lines of differentiation remained, and the social structure kept its familiar pattern. Developments in Protestant-Catholic relations throughout the century were conditioned by the past, so that progress, in some ways, always went backwards, back to the plantation and the sort of society it helped to shape, back to old battles and events, returning to the same zero-sum notions and anti-Catholic ideas that existed in the sixteenth century. However, as time evolved Ireland was increasingly unable to live with its past because the old conflicts and fissures caused tremendous strain in its social structure. Protestant and Catholic people emerged in the nineteenth century as solidaristic communities, transcending fault-lines within each as they confronted the other as a separate community in a zero-sum conflict in which it seemed that they did not have mutually compatible sets of interests. Political and economic developments in the nineteenth century divided the island of Ireland into two identities, mutually sculpted in opposition to each other, and it became increasingly difficult to contain both in the one territory. Social structural strains eventually developed to the point that the colonial society planted in the sixteenth century was overturned — at least in twenty-six of its counties. Union to partition was a journey to nationhood in which anti-Catholicism lost its power as a resource to shape economics, politics and society, but the journey for some Catholics took a route to the new state of Northern Ireland, where old and familiar anti-Catholicism played a critical sociological role in Ulster’s own version of the ascendancy.

Keywords

Land Reform British Government Conservative Party Mixed Marriage Protestant Church 
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Notes

  1. 9.
    See R. Woodford, A Sermon Preached at Christ Church, Dublin on 13 May 1764 (quoted in Haydon, 1993: 4).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© John D. Brewer with Gareth I. Higgins 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • John D. Brewer
    • 1
  • Gareth I. Higgins
    • 1
  1. 1.The Queen’s University of BelfastUK

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