The Irish Citizen Army outside Liberty Hall, under the slogan "We serve neither King nor Kaiser, but Ireland"
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- This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
- Platform: Zoom
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For four centuries, the Irish people debated the proper response to the British conquest of their country, and in turn, the “Irish question” has repeatedly overshadowed British politics. During this period, Ireland was transformed from a province of Britain into a modern society straddling two political entities: the Irish Republic and the province of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. The legacy of repeated historic conflicts still looms over an island still emerging from the 30 years of violence known as the Troubles.
Historian Jennifer Paxton traces the turbulent and fascinating history of Ireland from the Tudor conquest and the English and Scottish settlements in Ulster to the Good Friday Agreement, Brexit, and beyond.
9:30–10:45 a.m. Plantation and Revolt: The Calamitous 17th Century
The Tudor conquest was followed by the “plantation” of thousands of English and Scottish Protestants, predominantly in the northern province of Ulster. The backlash against settlement caused a bloody revolt in 1641 that drew Ireland into the English Civil War and brought Oliver Cromwell to Ireland to “pacify” the natives, followed 30 years later by a major war between two claimants to the English throne, fought on Irish soil. Learn how the penal laws aimed at dispossessing the Irish Catholic elites who backed the losing side progressively impoverished the Irish people and entrenched a British-oriented landed aristocracy.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. The Great Hunger
The potato famine of the 1840s transformed Ireland from a country of Irish-speaking peasants into an increasingly English-speaking country depopulated by both famine and emigration. Paxton examines how the British response to the famine exacerbated its effects, and how the resulting misery prompted some Irish nationalists to campaign for more rights for tenant farmers and radicalized others to seek independence by force.
12:15–1:15 p.m. Break
1:15–2:30 p.m. The Easter Rising and the War of Independence
Ever since the Act of Union in 1800 that suppressed the Irish Parliament, Irish nationalists had been divided on whether to seek more autonomy from within the British system or to campaign for outright independence. Paxton discusses how the advent of World War I tipped the balance in favor of the radicals, who sought to capitalize on British preoccupation with combat elsewhere, leading to the Easter Rising of 1916 and a guerrilla war for independence, which ended in 1922 with the partition of the island of Ireland.
2:45–4 p.m. The Troubles and the Good Friday Agreement
Irish partition led to the creation of two very different political entities on the island of Ireland: the independent, predominantly Catholic Republic of Ireland, and the majority Protestant province of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. Paxton explores how tension between the Protestant majority and the Catholic minority in the North led to the outbreak of the Troubles in the 1960s, and how the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 finally brought about an end to violence. She concludes by examining the implications of Brexit for the entire island of Ireland.
Paxton is clinical associate professor in the department of history and director of the university honors program at Catholic University of America.
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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.