Dates: 1, 8, 15, 22 May 2019
Wednesdays: 10.30 – 12.30
Course code: 18TON381
This course will probe and discuss the complex circumstances concerning Gladstone’s ‘Irish Problem’, the installing of ‘Home Rule’, the Easter Rising of 1916, the Anglo-Irish War and Partition.
Gladstone eventually favoured Home Rule for Ireland, but his attempts failed. The Asquith government passed such a bill, but the Great War supervened. The Easter Rising of 1916 failed, but British mistakes created a mood for independence. After a bruising Anglo-Irish War (1919-1921), Lloyd George agreed to partition Ireland.
Week 1. What was the “Irish Problem” that exercised Gladstone? After more modest reforms he converted to “Home Rule”, and twice tried to pass such bills, hoping to satisfy Parnell, the Irish nationalist leader. Why did Gladstone fail?
Week 2. The Asquith government did pass a Home Rule bill in 1914, against Protestant opposition, but it was never implemented, as the Great War supervened. Thousands of Irishmen joined up from every background: Catholics sympathized with Belgium and hoped for Home Rule as their reward. Why then did Asquith succeed with his legislation where Gladstone had failed?
Week 3. The Easter Rising of 1916 took everyone by surprise, and received – at first – little support. But heavy-handed British tactics alienated Irish opinion, especially when the authorities executed several ring-leaders. Sinn Fein emerged as a popular force, particularly in by-elections and the general election of 1918. An Anglo-Irish war ensued from 1919 to 1921. Why did the Rising fail, yet Sinn Fein gained in popularity?
Week 4. The war was bitterly fought, with no quarter given on either side. The British deployed the “Black and Tans” and the “Auxis” with a reputation for brutality, and Sinn Fein/IRA replied in kind. By 1921 clearly neither side could win, and a London conference agreed on partition. The 6 northern provinces remained with Britain as Northern Ireland, while the 26 southern counties formed the new state of Eire. Two questions arise: why did both sides decide to settle in 1921? And how far did partition address the issues at stake?
Foster, R.F., Modern Ireland, 1600-1972 (Penguin, 1989)
Lyons, F.S.L., Ireland since the Famine (Fontana Press, 1985)
Morton, Grenfell, Home Rule and the Irish Question (Longman, 1980)
O’Day, Alan, Irish Home Rule, 1867-1921 (Manchester University Press, 1998)
Smith, Jeremy, Britain and Ireland: from Home Rule to Independence (Longman, 2000)
This course is suitable for all: some prior knowledge would be useful but is not essential. The course allows you to spend time exploring a subject for interest, among like-minded people, without formal assessment. There will be discussion opportunities during the course.
Intended learning outcomes
- An understanding of the so-called “Irish Problem”.
- The capacity to account for Gladstone’s failure to achieve Home Rule, and Asquith’s success.
- An appreciation of the limited initial success of the Easter Rising.
- The ability to explain the outcome of the Anglo-Irish War.
- A grasp of the concept of partition, and an evaluation of its chances of success.
About the tutor
Edward Towne graduated in European Studies from the University of East Anglia, and later achieved a PGCE from Cambridge, an MA in Early Modern English History from the University of London, and MSt in Twentieth Century British History from the University of Oxford. His professional career was spent teaching History in state and independent Secondary Schools, finally as Head of the History Department. Currently, Edward lectures independently to adults in a variety of organisations, and acts as a reviewer and tour leader on historical topics.