The Emergence of the Irish Catholic Nation, 1750-1850

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This chapter seeks to trace the process by which the terms the ‘people of Ireland’, the ‘whole people of Ireland’, even the ‘Irish nation’ changed from meaning the Protestants of Ireland to designating Irish Catholics. This process took place roughly from 1750 to 1850, and can be explained in the first instance by the emergence in the second half of the eighteenth century by ‘the Catholic Question’—the quest for Catholic civil and religious equality in the Irish state. Equally, the deteriorating relations between the Protestants of Ireland and the British government, and the needs of a global empire for whose army and navy Irish Catholic recruits were necessary, played a significant role in this transformation. And of course, the failure of the Act of Union to deliver on the promise of Catholic Emancipation. Ultimately, the Famine, with its creation of an Irish nation abroad, was to be conclusive. By 1850, the term ‘the Irish nation’ or ‘the people of Ireland’ incontestably meant the Catholics—an outcome that could not have been foreseen in 1750.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish History
EditorsAlvin Jackson
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

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  • Daniel O'Connell
  • sectarianism
  • British Army
  • recruits
  • Protestant ascendancy
  • Penal Laws
  • Act of Union


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