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Sons of Exile: The United Irishmen in Transnational Perspective 1791-1827

  • Author(s): MacGiollabhui, Muiris;
  • Advisor(s): Brundage, David;
  • et al.

My dissertation produces a transnational history of the United Irishmen and recasts them as Atlantic, rather than solely Irish, revolutionaries. The United Irishmen were formed in 1791 as an organization dedicated to reform initiatives, one of which was Catholic emancipation, but by 1795, as a result of their criminalization by the British Government, their existence became clandestine, and their means violent. In 1798, they rebelled against an oppressive British Government and instead of facing the hangman’s noose, although many United Irishmen did, they were subjected, en masse, to exile. Their expulsion brought an end to rebellion in Ireland and flung them into Atlantic geographies still in revolt. My dissertation maps the transnational exile of the United Irishmen throughout the Atlantic world, including the United States, Eastern Canada, and Jamaica. This project is informed by historians’ calls to internationalize Irish history and integrates Irish migrants into the “Green Atlantic”: a network of Irish people spread throughout the Atlantic world.

By studying the exile of the United Irishmen, it is possible to ask a question that is pertinent to the late eighteenth century generally: what did it mean to be revolutionary during the “Age of Revolution”? This dissertation shows that on matters of race, gender, and democratic participation, the political ideology of the United Irishmen was fraught with inconsistencies and contradictions. Each chapter addresses this theme, querying how the United Irishmen in exile addressed matters of race, gender, imperialism, and political participation. The history of the United Irishmen, seen more acutely outside of Ireland, shows the messy nature of political ideology and the inconsistencies with which the United Irishmen participated in world events.

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