David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Clarendon Press (2002)
This is the first comprehensive analysis of late eighteenth-century Irish patriot thought and its development into 1790s radical republicanism. The book is a history of the rich political ideas and languages that emerged from the tumultuous events and colourful individuals of this pivotal period in Irish history. Patriots, radicals, and republicans played key roles in the movements for free trade, legislative independence, parliamentary reform, Catholic relief and independence from Britain; and many of their ideas helped precipitate the rebellion in 1798. Stephen Small explains the ideological background to these issues, sheds new light on the origins of Irish republicanism, and places late eighteenth-century Irish political thought in the wider context of British, Atlantic, and European ideas. Dr Small argues that Irish patriotism, radicalism, and republicanism were constructed out of five key political 'languages': Protestant superiority, ancient constitutionalism, commercial grievance, classical republicanism, and natural rights. These political languages, which were Irish dialects of languages shared with the English-speaking and European world, combined in the late 1770s to construct the classic expression of Irish patriotism. This patriotism was full of contradictions, containing the seeds of radical reform, Catholic emancipation, and republican separatism - as well as a defence of Protestant Ascendancy. Over the next two decades, the American and French Revolutions, the reform movement, popular politicization, Ascendancy reaction, and Catholic political revival disrupted and transformed these languages, causing the fragmentation of a broad patriot consensus and the emergence from it of radicalism and republicanism. These developments are explained in terms of tensions and interactions between Protestant assumptions of Catholic inferiority, the increasing popularity of natural rights, and the enduring centrality of classical republican concepts of virtue to all types of patriot thought.
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