The Battle of the Somme in Ulster memory and identity

B. Graham, Peter Shirlow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Citations (Scopus)


One of the enduring illusions about Northern Ireland is that its society can be conceptualized through a binary distinction between protestant and catholic. unionist and nationalist. It is increasingly apparent that these broad domains are themselves fractured and diverse and that otherness is often conceived from within rather than without. Northern Ireland can also be viewed as a laboratory for identity formation as unionists and loyalists strive to reconcile themselves with the fundamental political changes that have followed in the wake of the Peace Process. This paper considers one aspect of the contestation of belonging that increasingly characterizes unionism. It examines the competition for the ownership of the mythology of the Battle of the Somme ( 1916), long a key event in the unionist narrative. In particular, the paper addresses the ways in which paramilitary organizations are using the Somme to legitimate their own activities but also to distance the loyalist working classes from the former hegemonic Britishness of official unionism and the sectarianism of the Orange Order. The analysis concludes that loyalist identity is being conceptualized thorough a narrative of betrayal from within and at an intensely localized scale.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)881-904
Number of pages24
JournalPolitical Geography
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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