Religious Conflict in Ulster, c. 1780–1886



The Troubles in Northern Ireland that began in the late 1960s have cast a long shadow over Irish historical scholarship. The sense that Protestant orange and Catholic green had been in perpetual struggle since at least the plantations of the seventeenth century was, and still is, a commonplace in the literature. In his 1977 classic, The Narrow Ground, A.T.Q, Stewart believed that the chaos unfolding around him in Belfast was a revival of words and actions from the Irish past, not a deliberate imitation, but ‘some mysterious form of transmission from generation to generation. In many ways it was a frightening revelation, a nightmarish illustration of the folk-memory of Jungian psychology’. For Stewart, violence appeared ‘to be endemic in Irish society’ and there could ‘hardly be a square inch of earth anywhere in Ireland that has not been at some time stained with blood’. In a preface to a reprint of the work in 1989, Stewart commented that –Most of what was happening in Northern Ireland after 1969 seemed to the general public to be new and revolutionary, but to the historian a good deal of it was almost eerily familiar.’ His aim had been ‘to set the crisis in its historical context, and then to show how elaborately structured, and how time-hallowed, were the patterns of political and violent behaviour’.1


Irish Society Secret Society Home Rule Established Church Sectarian Violence 
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Copyright information

© Andrew R. Holmes 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queen’s University BelfastUK

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