A ‘carnival of reaction’: Partition and the defeat of Ireland’s revolutionary wave

Brian Kelly, Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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In this chapter, we draw on original historical research on the period between 1900 and 1920 to argue that Partition reflected less a pragmatic approach to pre-empting sectarian civil war on the island than an imperial defeat of Ireland’s revolutionary wave. The two communal blocs, Protestant Unionists and Catholic Nationalists, were more fluid in their political sensibilities than the revising hindsight of mainstream historians has allowed. Nevertheless, the result of Partition was a consolidation of two conservative regimes, north and south, compatible with the interests of both Irish petty capitalism and British imperialism. Indeed, the panicked and violent response of northern business interests and the new NI state to the emergence of tentative class-based unity in Belfast in 1907, 1919 and 1932 underscored the extraordinary measures undertaken to facilitate Partition (and consolidate its ‘two communities’). Significantly, none of the major protagonists in the decades before 1920 claimed that the ‘six counties’ made up some natural ethnic or religious community that could provide the basis for a stable state formation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeyond borders: Northern Ireland at 100
EditorsDes Bell, Liam O'Dowd
Place of PublicationCork
PublisherCork University Press
Number of pages23
Publication statusAccepted - 30 Sept 2022


  • Ireland
  • northern ireland
  • Partition
  • Irish history
  • British history
  • Irish unionism
  • Irish labour
  • labour
  • Social class
  • sectarian conflict


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  • Gathering antipathy: Irish immigrants and race in America's age of emancipation

    Kelly, B., 16 Mar 2018, Rethinking the Irish diaspora: after the gathering. Pierse, M. & Trew, J. (eds.). Palgrave Macmillan, p. 157-185 29 p. (Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

    Open Access
    342 Downloads (Pure)
  • Foreword

    Kelly, B., 20 Apr 2017, Struggle or starve. Working-class unity in Belfast's 1932 outdoor relief riots. Mitchell, S. (ed.). Chicago: Haymarket Media Group, p. i-vii 7 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript

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