Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Aspects of Chartism: Irish influences on Chartism

Historians of Chartism differ on the place that Irish questions played in the movement and on the importance of the part played in the movement by Irish men and women[1]. In the years that Chartism dominated English radicalism, Daniel O’Connell dominated Irish popular politics. The earlier historians of Chartism tended to see the O’Connellite repeal movement as entirely separate from Chartism but nevertheless allowed for a considerable Irish influence over Chartism[2]. Mark Hovell saw O’Connor as an Irish outsider who became involved in English politics after he had failed in Irish politics and quarrelled with O’Connell. Hovell had little time for the Irish in any form and regarded O’Connor as the ruin of Chartism. Irish immigrants were a ‘swarm’ and served mainly as shock troops for the physical force side of Chartism for which Hovell had little time or sympathy[3].  Hovell’s views were challenged by later historians especially Rachel O’Higgins who showed a considerable Irish presence among the Chartism leadership and a concern for Irish questions that went beyond the personal interests of O’Connor[4]. However, this view has also been questioned from a viewpoint more sympathetic to Irish history than Hovell’s in the work of J.H. Treble[5].

  • He argued that the Irish immigrants in the industrial areas of Britain were actively hostile to Chartism and held apart from the movement. He suggests that the large number of Irish among the Chartist leadership has mistakenly been assumed to imply a following of the Irish in the crowd.
  • He shows convincingly that the leaders of most Irish organisations in the 1830s and 1840s were actively hostile to Chartism and discouraged their members from associating with the English movement.
  • His evidence is, however, taken entirely from official documents and he does not show how far the actions of ordinary Irish working men were influenced by such pronouncements. There is little doubt that in the major cities like Liverpool and Manchester, organisations controlled by Irish politicians and by the Catholic church had a loyal membership, articulate and organised if never large. However, in the years before the famine there is little proof that these organisations represented the views or commanded the support of the majority of Irish men and women in Britain. Official condemnation by the Catholic Church is not a necessary indication of shared hostility. Outside these two cities, there is less evidence of organised conflict between the O’Connellite Irish and Chartists.

Treble’s arguments have been taken up by some historians to the extent that the ‘textbook’ view of the relationship between English and Irish workers is one of mutual antagonism and misunderstanding. This view is reinforced by the difficulty of identifying whether Chartists were immigrants from Ireland or from Irish families in England or not. However, it is essential to challenge the orthodox position that developed from Treble’s influential article.

What was the level of Irish participation in Chartism?

The Irish dimension was a contributory influence for two of the most important Chartist leaders: Feargus O’Connor and Bronterre O’Brien. Among Chartist leaders at regional level, historians have identified a number of Irishmen who played an important part in the movement. Thomas Murphy, a Catholic coal merchant in London led St Pancras opposition to church rates and the new poor law in the 1830s. He was one of a group that included O’Connor that played a major part in establishing the Great Radical Association and the LWMA in 1836. Philip McGarth, a tailor who lived in the Irish quarter of the East End was president of the NCA for many years. Daniel and Charles McCarthy were members of the Chartist trade locality of the City Boot and Shoemakers in 1842 and held positions in both Chartism and the repeal movement. Arthur O’Neill was half Irish and a pioneer of Church Chartism initially in Scotland and then in Birmingham. The wool-comber George White was an Irish Chartist leader in Leeds who found himself out of tune with the respectable dissenting Chartists of the city and moved to Bradford where he won support among fellow wool-combers.

Although it is possible to identify Chartist leaders of Irish descent, the short of reliable evidence on the participation of ordinary Irish men and women in the movement is recognised by all the key figures in the debate. John Saville, in his book on 1848 accepts the qualifications Thompson makes of Treble’s thesis but argues that the extent of the involvement of Irish communities in Chartism remains problematic because of the difficulty of knowing precisely where Irish allegiance lay between Daniel O’Connell’s peaceful movement for the repeal of the Union and O’Connor’s more robust approach to Chartism. A comparison can be made between the top twenty towns in terms of the number of Irish-born people recorded in the 1851 census with the recorded membership of the National Charter Association in 1842 to see whether there was a close correlation between the two lists shows significant differences between the two. From this Graham Davis[6] concludes that “the marked differences between the two lists are more significant than the coincidences that have prompted a false conclusion of an Irish presence in Chartist activity, at least before 1848”. Although Davis’ methodology is simplistic, there is no denying the lack of correlation between membership of the NCA and areas where there were significant Irish communities.

However, there was conflict between Irish workers and Chartists in Manchester in 1841 and 1842. Irish opposition to Chartism in other areas did draw workers away from Chartist involvement. Epstein suggests, “The fragmentation within sections of the northern industrial working class, between Irish and English workers, was a source of Chartist weakness.” It is difficult to estimate the amount of Irish support for O’Connor and the Chartist movement. Traditional studies have tended to focus on the antagonistic relationship between O’Connell and O’Connor. Irish immigrants remained aloof from Chartism because of the policy of O’Connell and the critical attitudes of the Catholic clergy. There was no formal link between Irish nationalism and Chartism until after 1847. Treble took the view that it was not until 1848 that the ‘vast majority’ of the Irish in the northern industrial counties had any significant contact with Chartism. Dorothy Thompson, by contrast, has shown that informal co-operation between Chartists and Irish workers were common especially in the smaller manufacturing towns and villages before 1848. However, 1848 was different in several respects from anything that had happened earlier and Treble was right to emphasise the differences.

How far did religion limit support for Chartism?

The Irish should not be seen as a single, undifferentiated mass. Within the manufacturing districts, there could be Irish families from several periods of immigration, some who had come by way of other English and Scottish districts, and some who were Protestant, some who had drifted away from the Catholic Church and others who had deliberately broken with the Church. In was not until after the famine that the Irish community became rather more homogeneous and there was a tendency for the immigrants to remain grouped around the area in which their priest lived and their church was situated. There was an increase in the importance of religion as a defining characteristic of ‘Irishness’ in the period after Chartism.

In the 1830s and 1840s, there is little evidence to suggest that religious affiliations were sufficiently divisive to override working class loyalties. Though it is difficult to recover denominational loyalties, as with occupations Chartism represented a cross-section of the communities in which it existed. In Barnsley, for example, there was a large Irish-Catholic population and many of the Chartists were Catholic. In Lancashire, there was a high level of non-religious radicalism but there were also a number of Catholics and members of Nonconformist sects. In the West Riding, the majority of Chartists whose affiliations were known were Nonconformists. There was no particular Chartist religious grouping. Treble argues that examples can be found of priests warning their flocks against supporting Chartism, but such warnings can also be found coming from the pulpits of Anglican churches and Nonconformist chapels. Religion was used by the Chartists themselves to support their views, as well as by others to condemn them. It is difficult, therefore to sustain Treble’s argument that the hostility of the Catholic church to Chartism explains Irish indifference to the movement. If anything, the reverse was the case.  It has been suggested that

  • Concern for Ireland and support for repeal were grafted on to British Chartism because of a personal foible of its leader and that this did the movement little good.
  • It has also been argued that the Irish cared little for Chartist politics but accepted the hostility to the movement expressed by Daniel O’Connell and the Catholic Church.
  • A third line of argument found in Thomas Carlyle and other writers suggests that the ethnic differences of race, religion, language and behaviour were sufficient to prevent cooperation between the Irish and the rest of the British population on any real scale.
How concerned were people about Ireland ?

Ireland was ruled and administered directly from Westminster and contained a third of the population of the British Isles before the famine. Regulations passed by the government with respect to Ireland could well be extended to other parts of the kingdom. The expression ‘disturbed districts’ used to describe those areas in Ireland where martial law had been imposed was also used to describe parts of the manufacturing districts of England and Scotland. The number of Irish men and women in the workforce throughout Britain meant that anything that affected them came very close to affecting all working people in the British Isles, whether Irish or not. The way in which Ireland was ruled and the living conditions of its people affected the rest of the kingdom directly and immediately.

The government of Ireland was a central question for reformers in the aftermath of the 1832 Act and it was hoped that a new government would end coercion if not immediately address the question of the repeal of the union. The disillusion with the actions of the reformed Parliament and the Whig administration that was the starting point for the Chartist movement began in the first parliamentary session. In January 1833, the Suppression of Disturbances Act was passed, a draconian Coercion Act for Ireland that was more severe than any that had gone before. The middle and working-class cooperation that had achieved the Reform Act did not survive this action. The passage of the act resulted in an immediate nationwide response. This protest was centred in areas that were soon to become Chartist strongholds and many of its leaders were soon to become the leaders of Chartism. In Halifax, for example, Robert Wilkinson, Thomas Cliffe, Elijah Crabtree and William Thornton all became leading Chartists. When touring the provinces in 1835 and 1836, Feargus O’Connor set up radical organisations that were among the immediate precursors of Chartism and kept the issue of Irish coercion at the head of his campaign against the government. The Northern Star, founded in 1837 was deliberately names after a journal of the United Irishmen. Repeal of the union and the opposition to coercion were important parts of its policy from the beginning. It was not simply the northern radical associations that opposed coercion. The LWMA presented an address to Queen Victoria on her coronation in which it too commented on Irish oppression and the need for “an immediate and radical remedy”. Given the relationship between Lovett and O’Connor, the LWMA could never be accused of pursuing a personal foible of O’Connor.

Working class radicals were seriously concerned about the question of Ireland well before the publication of the Charter in May 1838. Irishmen were already prominent in British radical leadership. John Cleave, George Condy, John Doherty and Bronterre O’Brien were known nationally as active supporters of various pre-Chartist radical campaigns especially the battle against stamp duty on newspapers. Chartism also included the support of trade unions[7] and here, since the Irish were often used a strike-breaking cheap labour, more anti-Irish feeling and fewer Irish personalities might be expected. Irish men and women were often deliberated imported to break strikes, as they were in the 1844 coal strike in the north-east. However, there is a difference between the use of fresh immigrant labour or of labour deliberately used to dilute the existing working force and the behaviour of immigrants who were already part of that labour force. In reality, establish Irish labour was often more willing to defend their livelihoods than English workers. The Glasgow cotton-spinners strike and the prosecution of its leaders that convulsed manufacturing areas in the winter of 1837-8 was one of the immediate precipitants of Chartism. Many of the Glasgow spinners were Irish and two at least of the arrested leaders had been born in Ireland. It is clearly simplistic to see the use of low-paid or unskilled labour as being necessarily divisive in the pre-Chartist or Chartist period.

The role of O’Connell

Until 1837, O’Connell appeared to be in sympathy with the majority of the radical programme. In 1837, he made a sharp break with English radicalism and sought to take the whole of the Irish movement with him. In Ireland, apart from Dublin and a few centres, he was successful. The extent to which he succeeded in separating the Irish from the British radicals in other parts of the British Isles is far more debatable.  The Glasgow cotton-spinners’ case was the cause of the rift and made clear what the experience of the Dublin artisans had already made evident: O’Connell was hostile to trade unionism and adhered to the dogmas of conventional political economy. Initially, the LWMA secured the support of O’Connell for their proposed petition to Parliament for universal manhood suffrage. However, O’Connell’s price was that the LWMA should drop its opposition to the new Poor Law and soon showed that his support was conditional on a denial of the principles of trade unionism. The litmus test of working class radicalism was opposition to the Poor Law and support for trade unions and the Glasgow case in the autumn of 1837 cemented O’Connell’s opposition to Chartism.

The rift between O’Connell and the British radicals was not simply a question of English politics; it was also an indication of differing traditions in Irish popular politics. The split between O’Connell and O’Connor was not simply personal as some historians have suggested. The division between the two men was also one of tactics. O’Connor believed that the only function of Irish MPs should be to achieve repeal of the union with Britain and that the issue should be put at once and should continue to be raised on every possible occasion. O’Connell was, however, prepared to do a deal with the Whigs in return for limited concessions. The Conservative victory in 1841 ended the pact between O’Connell and the Whigs and he returned to the campaign for repeal founding the Loyal National Repeal Association in late 1842. There was ‘official’ discouragement of links between repealers and Chartists on the mainland but undoubtedly links, below the level of the leadership continued between the Irish and Chartism. However, O’Connell was able to head off the development of Chartism in most areas until the failure of the Clontarf demonstration in October 1843 when Irish repealers in England seem to have moved even more towards the Chartist position, a movement that was followed more slowly by Young Ireland on the other side of the Irish Sea.

Within Ireland, outside Dublin, there was little support for trade unionism or republicanism before the late 1840s. There was also little support for Chartism. In 1839, a group of Irish radicals formed the Irish Chartist Association, meeting weekly to read the Star and the Scottish Chartist journal the Scottish Patriot. The programme of the Irish Chartist Association was taken over in 1841 by the newly formed Irish Universal Suffrage Association that was founded in August 1841 with the aim of furthering the People’s Charter and the repeal of the union and was based on Dublin. In Belfast, members collected two thousand signatures for the second petition in 1842 and there were groups in Athboys, Drogheda, Loughrae, Newry and Sligo. Dublin Chartists were mainly 40/- freeholders who had lost the vote in 1829 led by Patrick O’Higgins and the Irish Universal Suffrage Association. Between 1841 and 1844, they sent several petitions to parliament for the Charter and repeal of the Act of Union, which added yet another dimension to Chartism. Regular meetings were discontinued in 1844. There was a short revival in 1848.

Membership of the Irish Universal Suffrage Association included artisans, tradesmen and at least one priest. O’Higgins maintained that the majority of its members were Roman Catholics and the tactics that O’Connell used to discourage people from joining it, including calling on the clergy to refuse the sacraments to members could only have worked against members of the Church. The first secretary was Peter Michael Brophy who went to the mainland of England for some time and took a prominent role in the Chartist movement and left the Church as a result. His successor, W.H. Dyott was a small master-printer and was probably a Protestant. No religious or sectarian discussion was permitted at meetings of the Irish Universal Suffrage Association and the success of this approach is seen in their publications in which there is no evidence of Protestant sectarianism or anti-clericalism.

The Irish Universal Suffrage Association and O’Connell’s Loyal National Repeal Association were opposed to each other until, for a brief moment they came together in 1848. This opposition has been variously described in terms of the personal disagreement between O’Connell and O’Higgins, of sectarian divisions between the membership of the two groups (an argument that was undoubtedly overstated) and the fundamental division between the Chartists, who were prepared to employ physical force and the repealers who followed O’Connell’s view that “my country’s freedom is not worth the spilling of one drop of Irish blood”.

After O’Connell

At first, the Young Ireland echoed O’Connell’s distrust of Chartism. In early 1847, John Mitchel wrote “We desire no fraternisation between the Irish people and the Chartists, not on account of the bugbear of physical force, but simply because some of their five points are to us an abomination.” Important shifts took place among the Irish leadership following O’Connell’s death in mid-1847. First, the Irish Democratic Federation, founded in London in August-September 1847, campaigned for repeal. In addition, Fintan Lalor’s ideas had an important influence on the policies of Young Ireland from the early 1847. His social radicalism was invigorated by news of successful revolution in Europe in 1848. Finally, O’Connor made a vigorous attack on the Crimes and Outrages Bill in the House of Commons. These developments helped to create a new understanding and provided the basis for an informal but firm agreement of mutual support between the Confederation and the Chartists. Many of those arrested that year were Irish and it was in areas where cooperation between the two movements was closest that the authorities made the most arrests. It is clear that the major centres of Chartist activity in 1848 (London, Bradford and the West Riding, Manchester and its surrounding towns and Liverpool) were precisely those towns and regions where there was a concentration of Irish immigrants.

These developments posed problems for the government. In 1839 and, to a lesser extent in 1842, Ireland had been relatively quiet and this allowed troops to be transferred from Ireland to the mainland. In 1847 and 1848, this was not the case. There was, however, one important difference between the Chartist and the Irish radicals. The Chartists were essentially constitutional in their approach while the Irish in England were no longer restrained by O’Connell’s prescription of physical force. This placed a great strain on the Chartist-Irish alliance. The Kennington Common meeting on 10th April was followed by violent confrontations between the police and radicals in early June and by plans by a small group of London Chartists and Confederates for a rising on 16th August. It is clear that the Chartists failed to exploit the full physical possibilities of their alliance with the Irish. In fact, the ‘Irish connection’ may have weakened the Chartist cause because it projected the Chartists as dangerous revolutionaries rather than constitutional reformers and allowed the government to mobilise anti-Chartist feelings.

John Belchem argues that Anglo-Irish co-operation in 1847 and 1848 did not strengthen the working class challenge in early Victorian England. In many respects, it was of greater benefit to the government. The Times commented on 10th April, “The Repealers wish to make as great a hell of this island as they have made of their own.” Punch showed the Chartists revelling in rape pillage and massacre. The establishment press exploited the Irish card as often as they could and the political failure of Chartism in 1848 had a decided effect on the increasing social and political isolation of the Irish in Britain during the 1850s. There is ample evidence of growing distrust and antagonism towards Irish immigrants in this period as a result of post-Famine immigration and the restoration of the Catholic Church hierarchy in 1851. Racial and religious prejudice formed an important part in the social consciousness of majority of ordinary people who took little or no part in the events of 1848 and this was exploited by Tory politicians. Anglo-Irish political solidarity in the late 1840s gave way to anti-Irish riots in the 1850s and 1860s[8].

Ethnic and religious hostility

There was certainly hostility to the Irish in ethnic and religious grounds among ordinary people in the 1830s and 1840s. However, among Chartists a feeling of community based on common work experience and a joint feeling of oppression was always much stronger and, in many cases produced the opposite effect as, for example, in great admiration for Irish nationalism. It was primarily among the middle classes that hostility was more often expressed in racial terms.

Conclusions

The Irish in England contributed an important element to Chartism at all levels. They were national and local leaders of the movement and formed much of the rank-and-file of Chartism. They were also important in 1848 and in the later days of Chartism especially for violence. The Irish brought their own grievances and experience into English Chartism. They were also hostile to the English ruling classes.


[1] Roger Swift The Irish in Britain 1815-1914. Perspectives and Sources, London, 1990 is a brief general survey invaluable for setting the issue in context. Roger Swift and Sheridan Gilley (eds.) The Irish in Britain 1815-1939, Pinter Publishers, 1989, especially pages 134-162 and Graham Davis The Irish in Britain 1815-1914, Gill, and Macmillan, 1991, pages 159-190 are more extensive. Roger Swift (ed.) Irish Migrants in Britain 1815-1914: A Documentary History, Cork University Press, 2002 is a valuable collection of sources with pithy commentaries.

[2] Dorothy Thompson ‘Ireland and the Irish in English Radicalism before 1850’, in James Epstein and Dorothy Thompson (eds.) The Chartist Experience, Macmillan, 1982, pages 120-151 reprinted in her Outsiders: Class, Gender and Nation, Verso, 1993, pages 103-133, J.H. Treble ‘O’Connor, O’Connell and the Attitudes of Irish immigrants towards Chartism in the North of England 1838-48’, in J. Butt and I.F. Clarke (eds.) The Victorians and Social Protest, Newton Abbot, 1973, pages 33-70, R. O’ Higgins ‘The Irish Influence in the Chartist Movement’, Past and Present, no. 20, (1961) and John Belchem ‘English Working-Class Radicalism and the Irish 1815-50’, in Roger Swift and Sheridan Gilley (eds.) The Irish in the Victorian City, London, 1985, pages 85-97 are the best guide to the controversy about the extent of Irish involvement in England popular radicalism.

[3] Mark Hovell The Chartist Movement, Manchester, 1918, pages 92-96.

[4] Rachel O’Higgins ‘The Irish Influence in the Chartist Movement’, Past and Present, volume 20, (1961), pages 83-96.

[5] J.H. Treble ‘O’Connor, O’Connell and the Attitude of Irish Immigrants towards Chartism in the North of England 1838-1848’ in J. Butt and I.F. Clarke (eds.) The Victorians and Social Protest: A Symposium, David & Charles, 1973, pages 33-70.

[6] Graham Davis The Irish in Britain 1815-1914, Gill, and Macmillan, 1991, pages 174-176.

[7] For trade union politics, the Irish and their church, see G.P. Connolly, ‘The Catholic church and the first Manchester and Salford trade Unions in the age of the Industrial Revolution’, in Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, volume 135 (1985) and J.H. Treble, ‘The attitude of the Roman Catholic church towards trade unionism in the North of England, 1833-42’, Northern History, volume 5 (1970).

[8] The momentous year of 1848 is also covered in a number of important works: John Saville’s excellent 1848: The British State and the Chartist Movement, Cambridge, 1987 and three shorter pieces by John Belchem: ‘The Year of Revolutions: the political and associational culture of the Irish immigrant community in 1848’, in John Belchem (ed.), Popular Politics, Riot and Labour, ‘Republican spirit and military science: the “Irish brigade” and Irish-American nationalism in 1848’, Irish Historical Studies, volume 24, May (1994) and ‘Nationalism, republicanism and exile: Irish emigrants and the revolutions of 1848’, in Past and Present, volume 146, (1995). The descent into sectarian politics in Lancashire is dissected by Neville Kirk, ‘Ethnicity, Class and Popular Toryism, 1850-1870’, in K. Lunn (ed.), Hosts, Immigrants and Minorities: Historical Responses to Newcomers in British Society, 1870-1914, Folkestone, 1980, pages 64-106.

The Normans in Italy: The Imperial Dream 1080-1085

At the end of his life, his ambitions, more and more grandiose, lay in the direction of the Eastern Empire. The repeated excommunications of Robert by Pope Gregory VII, in 1074, 1075 and in 1078, after Robert’s attempt to seize the principality of Benevento, led to a sudden deterioration in the relations between the Normans and the papacy. During the investiture quarrels, the Pope, in serious conflict with Emperor Henry IV, who himself had been excommunicated, could not manage without Norman support. Thus in 1080, in Ceprano, Robert Guiscard, whom the Pope had called ‘a small humble Norman’, a few years earlier, solemnly swore allegiance to the Papal power, who would soon call for his help against the invading German emperor in Rome. His alliance, both matrimonially and politically, was sought after, as much by the German Emperor as the Byzantine emperor. Emperor Michael VII had suggested a military alliance and the marriage of the Emperor’s brother to Guiscard’s daughter Helen and also bestowed high Byzantine honours on Guiscard’s family. Taking advantage of a period of political anarchy and troubles in Byzantium, which had lasted since 1076, Guiscard, ostensibly seeking to restore Michael VII, who had been overthrown in favour of Nicephorous Botanoiates in 1078, and with his daughter confined to a convent, decided to attack Byzantium. To guarantee Apulia against attack from the new rulers of Byzantium, Robert wanted the territories on the Adriatic coast of the Balkan Peninsula, and he began to build a large navy.

Crisis within the Byzantine Empire in the late 1070s enabled Robert Guiscard to undertake an audacious enterprise against a weakened state. In 1081 he, assisted by his son Bohemond crossed the Adriatic Sea with a considerable navy and invaded mainland Greece. The first campaign in 1081-1082 saw a series of victories on the Dalmatian coast and in Macedonia. The Norman leaders benefited from papal support for their success at Durazzo in 1081 whereas at Hastings in 1066 they had the papal banner: William I received his from Pope Alexander II and Robert Guiscard from Pope Gregory VII. Initially, he had some success but a combination of Norman revolts in Apulia and Alexius Comnenus becoming emperor in 1081 compelled him to return to Italy to reassert his authority in April 1082. In addition, the German emperor Henry IV invaded Italy with a considerable force in 1083. Pope Gregory VII menaced by the German army and by pro-German supporters in Rome appealed to Robert Guiscard for help. Having defeated the Norman rebels in Apulia, Robert marched on Rome and freed the pope. Returning, in autumn 1084, the second campaign advanced favourably. However, when he arrived on Cephalonia, off Epirus, Robert died of dysentery on 17th July 1085 at Cape Antheras.

Physically attractive, endowed with an acute and unscrupulous intelligence, a brilliant strategist and competent statesman, Robert had begun to organise a state composed of diverse ethnic groups: Latin and Germanic in Lombard territories and Greek in the Byzantine domains. The new political structure was built on a monarchical-feudal framework characteristic of the time. However, Robert controlled it by using his ducal power to create a powerful and prosperous state. The other base on which he built was Roman Catholicism, the religion of the conquerors and most of the conquered, which he used to reconcile the subjected peoples. An extremely religious man, Robert was distrustful of the Greek clergy because of their ties with Byzantium. On the other hand, his generosity toward the Latin Church was considerable. He endowed it with territories and clerical immunities in order to tie it firmly to the feudal system. Splendid cathedrals and Benedictine abbeys were built in the hope that they would consolidate and diffuse Latin language and culture among the heterogeneous people and tie them into a new, unified state. Robert was kept from realising this political vision only by his death.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Aspects of Chartism: Irish influences -- context

Ireland was a problem for successive English governments[1]. This was largely because a Protestant minority in Ireland ruled a Roman Catholic majority whose political and economic rights were severely restricted. Until 1829, Catholics were discriminated against because of their religion, and although they were given some legal and political rights in the 1790s, Catholics were denied access to parliament, both in Dublin and, after 1800, in Westminster. Economically, Catholics formed the poorest sections of a predominantly rural and agricultural society. They were also seen as a potential source of revolution and, therefore, as a threat to Britain’s security. Politicians like William Pitt and Sir Robert Peel tried to improve the position and status of Catholics, but they met with considerable opposition from Irish Protestants and an anti-Catholic British public. It is not surprising that to some Catholics, the Great Famine of 1845 was seen as an attempt to resolve the Irish problem through starvation[2].

The 1801 Act of Union[3] brought a closer link between England and Ireland. Ireland acted as a catalyst on English politics.

  • Daniel O’Connell[4] and the Catholic Association had conducted such a powerful campaign that the government passed the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829. The methods used by the Catholic Association were adopted in England by the Birmingham Political Union and the Anti-Corn Law League in their campaigns.
  • John Doherty was an active trade unionist and set up the Spinners’ Union in 1828.
  • Feargus O’Connor, George Julian Harney and James Bronterre O’Brien were all Chartist leaders.
  • The Lichfield House Compact, April 1835 between Lord John Russell and the Whigs and Daniel O’Connell and the Irish MPs were responsible for the fall of Peel’s first ministry.
  • The Irish potato famine had a lasting impact on Anglo-Irish relations.
  • The repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846 has been linked with the potato famine although the legislation had little effect in Ireland.

The Roman Catholic Emancipation Act 1829 gave full civil and political rights to Roman Catholics. They could now become MPs and occupy public offices with a few minor exceptions such as the office of Lord Chancellor. O’Connell believed that Catholic advancement in politics, government service and the professions would eventually lead to the end of Protestant dominance. There was, however, a change in voting qualification that was raised from a forty-shilling freeholder to a ten-pound householder. This cut the Irish electorate to a sixth of its former size. There was great disappointment especially from the 40/- freeholders who were disenfranchised. The Reform Act (Ireland) 1832 extended the vote to leaseholders to the £10 with leases of at least twenty years. This increased the number of those entitled to vote to a respectable, though not pre-1829, level. There was no redistribution of county seats and the 32 counties retained their two members. Thirty-one boroughs retained their members but an extra member was added to Belfast, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. A second seat was given to the University of Dublin with a franchise extended to holders of MAs and higher degrees. The 1832 Irish Reform Act was conservative and its outcome was disappointing. Although there was an increase in the number of voters, the possibility of bribery, corruption and impersonation remained high. The effect of the Act can be seen in the constituencies of County Carlow and the borough of Carlow. There was an increase in contested elections: of the eleven parliamentary elections between 1800 and 1832 only three were contested compared with eight out of the ten elections between 1832 and 1852. In the borough, thirteen burgesses, often related to each other and controlled by the borough patron the Lord Charleville, elected the MP before 1832 and electoral contests were unknown. After reform, there were 278 electors for the borough. All but one of the seven borough elections between 1832 and 1852 were contested.

Ireland under the Whigs 1832-41

The Whigs in London were fully aware of the problems of Ireland and of the need to find solutions to make rule from Westminster more accept­able. The police, magistracy, jury system and the courts needed reform, a poor law for Ireland had to be devised, and something had to be done about tithes and the unreformed municipal corporations. The informal compact between O’Connell and Melbourne at Lichfield House in 1835 in which the Whigs were kept in power by O’Connell’s MPs in return for good government, reform and better administration in Ireland was assisted by the appointment of Thomas Drummond as Under-Secretary at Dublin Castle.

Drummond vigorously pursued a campaign of reform. He was a bureau­crat rather than a politician and so was less intimidated by vested interests. He was determined that the police, military and legal system should not be used as a tool of Protestant dominance. He kept the Whig side of the Lichfield House Compact by effectively opening large areas of official employment and patronage to Catholics. The yeomanry, long been under the control of local property owners, had already been abolished in 1834. He refused to allow the police or military to collect tithe arrears. In 1836, he brought the entire police force under the control of an inspector-general, began recruitment on non-sectarian lines, initiated training procedures and provided Dublin with its own metropolitan police. He increased the number and functions of stipendiary magistrates, refor­med the jury system and for the first time Catholics were appointed to the Bench. Drummond’s administration aimed to make the legal system and the machinery of enforcement more acceptable to Ireland.

The Whig government attempted to improve conditions in the country by reform acts dealing with tithes, the poor law and municipal cor­porations. However, the religious problem was not solved. The Irish continued to pay tithes to the Anglican Church that maintained its supremacy. In 1838, a Tithe Act wrote off all arrears and converted tithes into a rent charge payable by the property owners who passed the charge down to sub-tenants, exempting only the lowest class of cottiers and tenants. Tithes had previously led to widespread disturbances especially between Catholic and Protestant clergy and the Act, despite its limitations, ended the tithe war that had waged since the early 1830s. However, the imposition of rent charges merely trans­formed the confrontation into one between tenants and property owners.

The Irish Poor Law Act passed in 1838 set up workhouses. O’Connell opposed it on moral and economic grounds. The Whigs ignored their own Royal Commission set up years earlier, which concluded that importing the English post-1834 system would be unsuitable. By 1841, Ireland had been divided into 130 poor law unions with elected boards of guardians, and Catholic ratepayers gained their first experience of local government and administration. The Irish Municipal Corporations Act of 1840 broke the control of the Protestant and Tory Orange organisations over the administration of Irish cities and towns. As in England, the unrepresentative and inefficient nature of urban government was attacked and 58 Irish corporations were abolished. The Act provided elected town councils for the largest cities and towns and handed over the administration of the smaller and poorer towns to the poor law guardians. The Irish Act was far narrower than the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 that applied to mainland cities and towns. It was based on a ten-pound household suffrage rather than the much wider ratepayer suffrage that applied in England. The powers of the elected Irish councils were also more limited with the police, for example, being excluded from their control. Though considerably less liberal than O’Connell wanted, the 1840 Act did free municipal government from the absolute control of borough patrons and enabled Catholics to have a role in local administration. O’Connell and his supporters won ten local councils and in 1841, he was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin, the first Catholic to hold that position since the 1680s.

The land problem

The land problem was not solved. Evictions, rack-renting and the payment of rents to the Anglican Church and absentee landlords continued. Contemporaries and historians have considerable difficulty in explaining why the Famine took place. It is generally agreed that the structure of the Irish economy and especially its system of land tenure played a significant part. Most of the cultivated land in Ireland in the 1840s was in the hands of Protestant landowners. Estates were regarded as sources of income for these landowners, many of them absentees in England rather than long-term investments. This led to a failure to invest in Irish farming. Robert Kane commented in 1845 that “England has capital, Ireland has not; therefore England is rich and industrious and Ireland is poor and idle.” Tenants were unable to invest in their land because of the high rents they were charged. Where improvement in farming did occur in Ireland, it proved very profitable. Irish agriculture promised returns of between 15 and 20 per cent compared to a 5 to 10 per cent yield in England. This was, however, the exception. This was recognised in the Devon Commission report in 1847, “The tenant willingly expends any capital he may possess in obtaining possession of the land and thus leaves himself without the means of tilling it effectively.” There was simply insufficient land available to satisfy the demand for land, despite the conclusion of the Devon Commission that over 1.5 million acres of land suitable for tillage was uncultivated. This led to the division and sub-division of land, a process accelerated in the first four decades of the nineteenth century. By 1845, a quarter of all holdings were between one and five acres. Forty per cent were between 5 and fifteen acres and only seven per cent over thirty acres. Those who did not rent land became day-labourers working for farmers when they could get work. This created considerable under-employment and forced many of the labourers to become migrant workers in England for part of the year. By 1794, open field farmers in Bedfordshire relied on wandering Irish workers for harvesting crops. They became navvies for road building, canal digging and railway construction. Many turned seasonal migration into permanent settlement and were largely involved in work English people found dirty, disreputable or otherwise disagreeable – jobs like petty trading, keeping lodging-houses and beer houses. In 1840, three out of four stallholders in Manchester were Irish. Inadequate investment meant that Ireland’s industrialisation was stunted. It could not provide the employment necessary to absorb the growing population.

Towards famine

Ireland continued to have a Malthusian economy: that is, the population outstripped food production. This was exacerbated by the potato famine. The ‘Great Famine’ began unexpectedly in the late summer of 1845. There had been a wet but warm spring and summer and reports from the west of Ireland suggested that there would be a better-than-average potato harvest. By September, potatoes were rotting in the ground and within a month, blight was spreading rapidly. In Tipperary and Cork, it made some fearful ravages and extended into other counties. Three-quarters of the country’s potato crop, the chief food for some three million people was wiped out. The following year blight caused a total crop failure. In 1847, the blight was less virulent but in 1848, a poor grain harvest aggravated the situation further. 1848 proved to be the worst year in terms of distress and death during the whole history of the Great Famine. Both 1849 and 1850 saw blight, substantial in some counties, sporadic in others. Famine with its deep social, economic and psychological effects changed Ireland’s political agenda. Under O’Connell Ireland had been generally loyal and pacifist. That loyalty and pacifism perished in the Famine. Whether English rule was in fact to blame for the Famine mattered less than the belief that it was. John Mitchel was not alone in believing that “the Almighty indeed sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine”.

These problems were to the front of O’Connor’s mind and he equated them with English grievances. There were two levels of Irish radicalism

  • Conservative radicalism under O’Connell, who wanted the social order to remain, but the political order to change. He wanted to repeal of the Act of Union and win home rule for Ireland under the British Crown. These people were political reformers.
  • Popular radicals who opposed English Protestant domination and sought social reform as expressed by ‘ribbonism’, secret agrarian societies seeking rent reductions and the abolition of tithes. They tended to be the violent element.

[1] Paul Adelman Great Britain and the Irish Question 1800-1922, Hodder & Stoughton, 1996 is designed with the beginner in mind. J.C. Beckett The Making of Modern Ireland 1603-1923, London, 1969 and Roy Foster Modern Ireland 1600-1922, Penguin, 1987 provide contrasting perspectives. K. T. Hoppen Ireland since 1800: Conflict and Conformity, Longman 2nd ed., 2000 is more focused. G.O. Tuathaigh Ireland before the Famine 1798-1848, Dublin, 1972 remains the most accessible general account.

[2] On the Great Famine, Cormac O’Grada The Great Irish Famine, Macmillan, 1989 provides a short overview of the controversies surrounding the subject. Christine Kinealy This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine, 1845-52, Dublin 1994 and A Death-Dealing Famine: The Great Hunger in Ireland, Pluto Press, 1997 are essential. Cathal Porteir (ed.) The Great Irish Famine, Dublin, 1994 is an invaluable collection of essays.

[3] The Act of Union meant that the separate Irish Parliament disappeared and 100 Irish MPs were added to the House of Commons. Twenty-eight Irish peers were elected for life to the House of Lords. One archbishop and three bishops represented the Irish Anglican Church. The Anglican Churches of England and Ireland were united.

[4] Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847) came from the Irish Catholic gentry; his father was a small landowner and shopkeeper. Educated in France, he studied law at Lincoln’s Inn in London between 1794 and 1796 qualifying as a barrister at the Irish Bar in 1798. He was involved in drafting the 1805 Petition and was increasingly involved in the emancipation debate. In 1823, he established the Catholic Association. He was known as ‘The Liberator’ because of his success in getting Emancipation. He was much less successful in his campaign for Repeal of the Act of Union in the 1840s.

The Normans in Italy: The conquest of Sicily

The most important source for the conquest of Sicily is Geoffrey Malaterra’s De Rebus gestis Rogerii Calabriae et Siciliae comitis[1]. He implied that the project for extending Norman authority to Sicily was conceived after the subjugation of Calabria was complete in 1060. However, from 1050 the Pope had appointed an archbishop of Sicily, and Robert Guiscard’s brother held the title of ‘future duke of Sicily’ after the synod of Melfi in August 1059. The island still had to be conquered and clearly, this had already been planned before Calabria was totally conquered. Malaterra chose to emphasise the importance of Count Roger’s role in the enterprise from the outset.

Sicily: the context

Sicily had been ruled by emirs of the Kalbite dynasty since 948 and the country had enjoyed a long period of domestic stability and prosperity. The emirs were, in theory, the representatives of the Fatamid Caliphs, the rulers of Egypt from 969 onwards but in practice they were an independent and hereditary ruling dynasty. During this period, Sicily was effectively brought under Islam. Christians were tolerated, as elsewhere in the Islamic world but they were an inferior class, legally disadvantaged and subject to special taxation. The Muslims were a superior social group and conversion to Islam meant that by 1060 two-thirds of the population were Muslim. The majority of Christians were concentrated in the north-east of the island in the mountainous Val Demone south of Messina.

In the early eleventh century, the political consensus of Islamic Sicily began to break down. The emir Ja’far was overthrown in 1019 by a rising caused by his attempt to alter the traditional system of taxation. At the same time, there was an influx of Berber immigrants from North Africa who brought with them the religious conflict between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. The relatively aggressive policies pursued by Ja’far’s successor Ahmed al Ak’hal resulted in an increase in raids on the mainland of Italy and on Byzantine Greece can be seen as an attempt to divert the attention of an increasingly divided society. Al Ak’hal’s assassination in 1037 resulted in a Byzantine expedition to Sicily in 1038 that aimed to exploit the internal divisions on the island but which was itself undermined by the Norman attack on Apulia in 1041. By the 1050s, political power on the island had fragmented into three contending principalities: the west was ruled by Abd-Allah ibn Manquet, the south and the centre by Ibn al-Hawwas and the east by Ibn Maklati based in Catania. Ibn-al-Hawwas was probably the most powerful of the emirs but none was in a position to dominate the whole island. The position was further complicated when Ibn al-Timnah took over Syracuse and then deposed and killed his neighbour in Catania.

The pretence for an invasion was supplied when the emir of Catania, Ibn al-Timnah came to Reggio to seek help from Roger de Hauteville[2] in 1060-1[3] in order to get rid of his rivals.  There are several reasons that could justify this conquest in the eyes of Robert: ensure the security of Calabria, end the Arab piracy and clear away the humiliation inflicted by George Maniakes on the Norman mercenaries, including the elder brothers of the Hauteville family, twenty years earlier, and more prosaically enjoy the spoils of war. Unlike other Norman conquests, the idea of conflict between Christianity and Islam added a religious dimension to the adventure, but the Normans proved afterwards that they never wanted the total eradication of Islam from the island.

The initial campaign of 1061

A further reconnaissance raid took place in March 1061. It was clear this was already being prepared when al-Timnah arrived. The force of 150 knights was still small but was larger than the force used the previous year. Amatus adds an interesting detail saying that Robert Guiscard made an experience soldier Geoffrey Ridel, a Norman whose family came from the Pays de Caux, joint commander. Whether this was to keep an eye on Roger or to act as a restraining influence is difficult to say but there is little doubt that this was a potentially hazardous mission. The Normans landed on the north coast and again defeated a force sent from Messina but then had some trouble withdrawing because bad weather prevented them getting to their ships. The two expeditions provided important intelligence on the Muslim defences and inflicted heavy casualties on their forces in the two battles near Messina.

The Muslim emirs were now aware of the threat from the Normans and took steps to prevent a further crossing by patrolling the seas with a significant naval squadron. In May 1061, Roger eluded the force and crossed with an advanced guard of 300 knights while Robert remained in Calabria with the substantially larger main force. The Muslims evacuated Messina and fled perhaps because losses in the earlier battles made an effective defence impossible. The capture of Messina provided a secure base for Norman naval operations and the short sea crossing from Calabria no longer posed a problem. In the summer of 1061, Robert Guiscard brought the main force over from Calabria mosing along the northern side of the Monti Peloritani and then southwards around the western side of Mount Etna into the land west of Catania. According to Amatus there were 1000 knights and 1000 infantry and it is not surprising that both Roger and Robert sought a battle with the Muslims. This occurred when the Norman encountered the army of al-Hawwas on the banks of the River Dittaino to the east of Castrogiovanni which it completely defeated despite being heavily outnumbered[4].

The aftermath of this victory appeared disappointing. Roger and a force of 300 young knights raided south-west towards Agrigento but Castrogiovanni proved impregnable and barred among permanent advance to the south of the island. In late 1061, Guiscard returned to Apulia essential to reassert his authority there and a recurrent problem for his operations in Sicily. Roger remained in Calabria. Despite this, the campaign in 1061 had proved extremely successful. Messina had been secured and the whole of the area to the north and east of Mount Etna was in Norman hands. In addition, they now enjoyed two important advantages. First, the Christian enclave in the Val Demone welcomed the Normans as liberators and provided them with much-needed supplies. Secondly, they had a valuable local ally in Ibn Timnah who had been restored to his lordship at Catania by the time Roger returned to the mainland. Early in 1062, he helped Roger to besiege and capture Petralia, twenty miles north-west of Castrogiovanni, which became an important advanced base for the Normans

From Messina to Palermo: Norman operations 1062-1072

Even though Robert had been involved in the first attempts to conquer the island (until 1064 and in 1072), the principal protagonist was Roger, his younger brother. He took advantage of the division of Sicily into three or four emirates, that were practically independent from each other, and the antagonism between the Berbers and Arabs, by leading a guerrilla war with from fifty to a few hundred men. This explains the length of time needed to conquer the island: thirty years. After the first invasion, the taking of Messina and several mountainous areas of the Val Demone in 1061, and the sustained operations from 1061-1064, the conquest continued, albeit laboriously. There were important victories at Cerami in 1063 and Misilmeri in 1068. Palermo was besieged and taken on 10th January 1072, thanks to the help of the fleet captured in Bari in 1071. This established the Normans as a maritime force[5].

Completing the conquest 1072-1091

The capture of Palermo marked a very clear stage in the conquest of Sicily. It represented the last direct involvement of Robert Guiscard in the conquest of the island and he never returned to the island after he left in early 1072. Guiscard granted Count Roger the fiefdom of Sicily, except Palermo, Messina and the Val Demone, which were possessed jointly. Although Roger was nominally subject to his elder brother, in reality he was left to govern the island and to continue the conquest as and when he could. By 1072, the Normans had conquered about half of the island. They had displayed considerable flexibility in exploiting Muslim divisions and in granting lenient surrender terms and toleration for Muslim worship.

This pragmatic policy towards non-Christians was marked although the contemporary chroniclers were at pains to stress the religious nature of the struggle and the overtly Christian mission of the Normans. William of Apulia wrote that Roger “fought continually against the Sicilians, enemies of the Dibvine Name’ and later, about the siege of Palermo that “This city is an enemy to God and knowing nothing of the Divine worship is ruled by demons…Christ makes difficult work easy.” Malaterra decribed how Roger encouraged his army at Cerami, “Our God, the God of Gods is all-powerful…with God going before us we shall be irresistible.” The chroniclers’ words reflect how they viewed the struggle and both William and Malaterra were writing in the 1090s around the time of the First Crusade. It is easy to dismiss the Holy War component of the Sicilian conquest as a later construct. However, Amatus of Montecassino, writing at the latest before 1078 also viewed events in an expressly religious context. He too saw Robert and Roger as leadingly an expressly religious fight. While the Normans were conducting what was perceived, at least by their own historians, as a holy war recovering land that was rightfully Christian, in practice the means for achieving this was pragmatic. The Normans were numerically inferior. They had considerable difficulty in capturing well-fortified towns and hilltop strongpoints and there were divisions among the Muslims that could be exploited. Flexibilty and toleration coexisted with the ideology of the holy war.

The conquest of the remainder of the island was to last a further twenty years. The main reason for this was the shortage of men at Roger’s disposal. When Guiscard left, the majority of his army went with him. Furthermore, when Malaterra wrote of the two brothers helping each other, this generally meant that, after 1072, it was Roger who was summoned to the mainland to help his brother and these absences not only prevented further conquest but put already conquered areas under threat. Neither could Roger afford to neglect Calabria as there was always the danger of external intervention. In June 1074, a Zirid fleet from North Africa sacked Nicotera in southern Calabria. Raids like this were of considerable nuisance value but early the following year a more substantial Zirid force landed at Mazara, an area taken in 1072 but on the extremes of the Norman conquests. Though the Zirids broke into the town, they did not take the citadel and were routed by a relief force. This episode demonstrates how fragile Norman control was over Sicily especially in their more advanced bases.

Roger was then summoned to the mainland to Guiscard to help him in his campaign in Calabria against his rebellious nephew Abelard, son of his elder brother Humphrey. For much of 1075 and probably into the early part of 1076, Roger besieged Abelard’s base of San Severina in northern Calabria. In his absence, Roger left Sicily under the command of his son-in-law Hugh de Gercé, a noble from Maine who held the lordship of Catania with strict instructions to remain on the defensive. However, Hugh accompanied by the count’s illegitimate son Jordan went on the offensive, were ambushed and Hugh and many of his men killed. The leader of the Muslim army that defeated Hugh was Ibn-el-Werd, emir of Syracuse who was to be a major stumbling block to continued Norman expansion for the next ten years. During this time, he was the most effective Muslim leader on the island, sometimes taking the war to the enemy and possessing in Syracuse one of the best harbours on Sicily.

Once Roger return to Sicily in 1076, the offensive was resumed and there were significant Christian gains in the next five years. A punitive expedition against Ibn-el-Werd’s land in the south-east resulted in widespread destruction and famine in the Val di Noto. In 1077, Roger captured Trapani bringing the west of the island firmly under his control. The following year, Castronuovo, one of the strongest fortresses in central Sicily was betrayed to him. In early 1079, the siege of Taormina, the one remaining Muslim fortress north of Mount Etna began and lasted six months. Roger’s control of the sea was important and both Trapani and Taormina were blockaded from the sea and his fleet was large enough to compel a Zirid squadron of fourteen ships to abandon its attempt to relieve Taormina.

However, fresh problems emerged in 1079 with a revolt of Muslims in western Sicily at Jato and the surrounding districts, not much more than twenty kilometres from Palermo. Malaterra stated that there were 13,000 Muslim families in this area who was previously acknowledged Norman overlordship and paid taxes to the count. The rebellion may have been caused by setting tax levels too high because of spending on mercenaries to supplement Roger’s on occasions, rather meagre force. Roger sought to persuade the Muslims to submit. When this failed, he established new fortresses at Partinico (to the north) and Corleone (to the south) but it was only after a long campaign and the destruction of the Muslim harvest that the area became quiet. Revolts remained a problem. Despite this, the Norman had made considerable progress by 1080 when again events on the mainland intervened. Roger’s presence was necessary to shore up support for his nephew Roger Borsa while Guiscard was fighting the Byzantine Empire. In his absence, Catania was betrayed to Ibn-el-Werd but was quickly recovered by the count’s son Jordan when Ibn-el-Werd made the mistake of fighting a pitched battle against the Normans.

When Roger returned to Sicily, he immediately strengthened the defences of Messina. Malaterra was right to regard the city as the key to Sicily but it had been under Norman control for twenty years and by the early 1080s was well behind the front line. Roger appears to have been very uneasy about the situation on the island perhaps because he recognised that he would almost certainly be needed on the mainland again[6]. In addition, Roger faced attempts by his subordinates to entrench their own authority in particular areas. The first challenge came from a knight called Ingelmarius whom Roger had favoured. He fell out with the count in the early 1080s when he built a castle at Gerace without comital approval. More serious was the rebellion in north-east Sicily led by Jordan while his father was on the mainland in 1083-4. It is difficult to explain why Jordan rebelled but as the count’s only healthy adult son, albeit an illegitimate one he saw himself, though he had not yet been designated as Roger’s successor. It is also important to recognise that this rebellion can be sen as an attempt to consolidate lordships by people who had previously been loyal but who had not gain immensely from the conquests in Sicily. Roger dealt with the matter quickly and firmly. Although Jordan was soon restored to favour, several of his associates were blinded.

While the Muslim revival under Ibn-el-Werd and rebellions may have hampered the completion of the conquest, there seems little doubt that it was Roger’s absences on the mainland that were the major difficult. After Guiscard’s death in 1085 and the succession of Roger Borsa as duke, count Roger was able to turn his complete attention to the island and the conquest was then completed quite rapidly. He was aided in this by a peace treaty concluded before 1087 with Temin, the North Africa ruler that meant the Sicilian Muslims would not longer get any external help. In 1086, Roger besieged and took Syracuse and Ibn-el-Werd was killed. The following year, he besieged and took Agrigento and the impregnable Castrogiovanni (now Enna) was taken, in the centre of the island.

By now only the extreme south-east of the island was in Muslim hands. Its conquest was delayed when, in the summer of 1088 Roger againt returned to Calabria to help Roger Borsa against his half-brother Bohemond. In April 1089, his army and siege engine appeared round Butera and it surrendered after a short siege. Finally, the last Saracen stronghold at Noto surrendered voluntarily in February 1091. The military phase of the conquest had been achieved though it was far from the end of the process of consolidation.

Consolidating Norman rule

Once the military phase of the conquest was completed, Roger was faced with several problems that needed solution. The Muslims remained the largest ethnic group on two-thirds of the island. Although, in 1064 Robert Guiscard had transferred the entire population of a captured community from Sicily to Calabria and Roger imitated this precendent when he sent to leading citizens of Butera to Calabria in 1089, ‘ethnic cleansing’ was never really an option. More important in terms of keeping the Muslim population quiet was the emigration of many Muslim aristocrats and intellectuals to live in North Africa or Spain as it removed potential leaders of rebellion. The long-term solution was either to encourage widespread conversion among the Muslim population or significant Latin Christian immigration from the mainland. This meant creating a Christian Church structure on the island almost from scratch.

The creation of a new Christian Church had already been begun before the conquest was completed. When Palermo was captured, the principal mosque was converted into the city’s cathedral and the existing Greek archbishop Nocodemus was installed there though his successor was a Latin. It remained the only see on the island until 1079 when Roger founded a bishopric at Troina in the Val Demone though it was not operational until two years later. This was approved by Pope Gregory VII who considered the whole process irregular and warned Roger not to see this case as a precedent. The creation of further sees had to wait until the rest of the island was conquered but a number of monastic foundations were established in the interim. Once the conquest was completed, Roger acted quickly establishing four further bishoprics at Catania, Syracuse, Agrigento and Mazara between 1091 and 1093 with the full approval of Pope Urban II.

Roger needed to administer the areas he had won and reward his supporters. The rebellions of the 1080s showed what could occur when his principal followers felt that they had not received their just rewards. The northern part of the island was already being enfeoffed during the 1080s and the distribution of land was greatly extended after the fall of Noto in 1091. However, Roger retained much of the island in his own hands, especially the centre and the west. Few substantial lordships were established and these were either for close relatives of the count or for favoured churchmen. These were largely in the east and along the north coast of the island. His illegitimate son Jordan was given Syracuse and extensive lands in the south-east of the island including Noto and Lentini though he only enjoyed this for a short time as he died in the autumn of 1091. He then granted his barony to his nephew Tancred, a younger son of his elder brother count William of the Principate[7]. Another son, Godffrey, also illegitimate was given the seignory round Ragusa. In the early twelfth century, there was a third important lordship in this south-eastern region around Butera and Paterno held by Roger’s brother-in-law Henry[8]. With the exception of a handful of non-Norman Frenchmen who were given land, count Roger used his numerous offspring as a means of controlling the new Sicilian establishment. Most of the principal towns and fortresses (apart from Syracuse, Catania and the halves of Palermo and Messina still subject to the duke of Apulia) remained under his direct control. The same applied to a vast area of land in the centre and west of the island, almost all of which remained under the direct control of the rulers of Sicily until late in the twelfth century.

Count Roger stressed his dominance over his followers by personal example and by title. He was incensed when his son Jordan suggested that he, rather than his father, should command the expeditionary force that conquered Malta in 1091. Roger wished to be seen as a conqueror, the man who reclaimed places for Christianity and resented any suggestion that he was too old. His role, as the restorer of Christianity to the land polluted by the infidel was stressed both in his own documents and in papal bulls sent to Sicilians. From 1092, he sometimes styled himself as the ‘Great Count’ of Sicily and Calabria to differentiate himself from other counts on the mainland rather than to stress his superiority over his own vassals. One of the marked features of Sicily is that there were no other counts in Sicily until shortly before Roger II accepted the royal crown in 1130. Roger refused to allow any of his subordinates in Sicily, even his sons to call themselves count. The reason was very simple: Roger did not want the new Sicilian barons, however closely they were related to him to have any claims to independent authority or to a rank that challenged that of the island’s ruler.

The most significant problem facing Roger after 1091 was demographic not vassalic. The Normans and the French made up a small and potentially vulnerable ruling class that dominated an entirely alien subject population largely by coercion or its threat. Culturally, Sicily was a problem. Its Christian population was almost entirely Greek and only in the north-east of the island were they in the majority. Apart from in Messina and Troia, Muslims formed the overwhelming majority of the urban population. Christian conversion did take place but it was overwhelmingly to the Greek rite rather than the Latin probably reflecting the imperfect conversion of the indigenous population to Islam in previous centuries. Efforts were made to attract Christian settlers to Sicily in an attempt to remedy this situation. Roger offered the prisoners he found when he conquered Malta the opportunity to settle in Sicily as free tenants. In 1095, Abbot Ambrose of Lipari also offered land on generous terms specifically to ‘men of the Latin language’. Efforts to encourage immigration continued throughout the twelfth century in a slow though eventually successful attempt to change the population structure of the island.

The demographic imbalance on the island was also reflected in how Sicily was governed. The early governors were Norman and Normans or Frenchment made up most of the castellans but most of the other officials were Greeks and Arabs who were often Christian converts. Existing Arabic land divisions continued to be used. Bilingual documents, including Arabic rights continued to be used throughout the twelfth century and most of Roger II’s charter were written in Greek. Muslim troops were used as early as 1076 in the siege of Salerno, in the march on Rome in 1084 and in most of Roger’s campaigns in the 1090s. Greek monks remained in the majority: between 1084 and 1101 Roger endowed three Latin monasteries but in the same period he endowed fourteen Greek ones. Roger’s religious policy largely followed the demographic structure of his domains.

After 1091, a Norman count ruled the whole of Sicily but changes on the island were limited. The count relied heavily on native officials and practices in his government of the island. Alterations to the overall balance of the population were slow and only began to have an effect on its social structure in the mid-twelfth century. The Normans were a small ruling minority on Sicily and even more so than on the mainland.


[1] Geoffrey Malaterra, monk of the monastery of Saint-Evroult in Normandy seems to have moved to southern Italy in the period when Robert de Grandmesnil was abbot of the monastery. He was instructed by Roger I count of Sicily (1062-1101), to write his biography. The four books of De rebus gestis Rogerii Calabriae et Siciliae comitis are written in prose with the exception of a few paragraphs in Books III et IV that are in verse. In the Book I, Malaterra tells of the exploits of the Hauteville family and especially those of Robert Guiscard and then those of Roger. Book II presents the early phase of the conquest of Sicily from the beginning of the enterprise in 1061 until the capture of Palermo with the help of Robert Guiscard in 1072. In Books III and IV, the conquest of Sicily is continued dealing with the war against the emir of Syracuse to the submission of Val di Noto in 1091. Certainly Geoffrey Malaterra does not neglect the help Roger gave to Robert Guiscard, each time that the duke needed it to maintain his domination on the Italian mainland. He describes the campaign of Robert Guiscard in Greece and his quick return to help Pope Gregory VII besieged in Rome by Emperor Henry IV. The work ends with the reorganisation of the Sicilian church and the concession made in 1098 by Pope Urban II to Roger. Malaterra provides a valuable complement to the poem by William of Apulia Gesta Roberti Wiscardi, dedicated to Robert Guiscard, brother of Roger. Even if Malaterra is a little too ready to celebrate the courage and the piety of the Norman princes, the De rebus gestis Rogerii is a unique source without which we would know little of the Norman conquest of Sicily in the second half of the eleventh century. The most accessible editions of his work are: L.A. Muratori (ed.) Gaufredi Malaterrae monachi Benedictini Historia Sicula, in Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, volume v, pages 537-605, Milan, 1724, reprinted by J.P. Migne (ed.) in Patrologie latine, volumn 149, columns 1093-1210 and E.G. Pontieri (ed.) Gaufredo Malaterra, De rebus gestis Rogerii Calabriae et Siciliae comitis et Roberti Guiscardi ducis fratris eius, in Rerum Italicarum Scriptores, volume v, 1 (fasc. 211 et 218-219), 2nd ed., Bologna, 1927-1928, pages 1-108.

[2] Roger was born in 1031, Normandy and died on June 22nd 1101 at Mileto in Calabria. He was the last son of the second marriage of Tancred of Hauteville. Roger went to Italy in 1057 and aided his brother Robert Guiscard in his conquest of Calabria from the Byzantines, something achieved by 1060. They began the conquest of Sicily from various Muslim rulers in 1061 with the capture of Messina but it was only completed in 1091. The turning point of the struggle was the capture of Palermo in 1072, when Robert invested Roger as his vassal with the county of Sicily and Calabria with a limited right to govern and to tax. After Robert’s death Roger acquired full right to govern from Robert’s son and in 1098 received the title of apostolic legate from Pope Urban II, which gave him control of the church in Sicily. At his death, Roger had created a centralised, efficient government, where the authority of the count was unchallenged.

[3] The accounts of both Malaterra and Amatus of Montecassino mention al-Timnah’s appeal to Roger though Malatera suggests this occurred in late February 1061. By then, the Normans had already decided to launch an invasion of Sicily and in late 1060 Roger had already made a preliminary reconnaissance in force, landing at Messina with sixty knights and inflicting a sharp defeat on a force sent from the town to attack him.

[4] Malaterra alleged that 700 Normans defeated 15,000 Muslims killing 10,000. The number of Normans may be credible and must have been smaller than the original force that crossed (the need to garrison captured areas) but the Muslim figures are almost certainly an exaggeration.

[5] Jean Deuve Les Opération Navales Normandes au Moyen Âge (900-1200), Editions Charles Corlet, 2000, pages 11-20 and 59-78 covers Norman naval operations in the Mediterranean in the eleventh century. Les héritage maritime des Vikings en Europe de l’Ouest, University of Caen, 2002 provides valuable context especially pages 101-118.

[6] In 1083-4, after his return from the campaign in the Balkans, Robert needed Roger’s aid to restore his authority on the mainland and to aid the papacy against the Emperor Henry IV.

[7] This repaid the debt Roger owed to his long-dead brother who had supported him in his disputes with Guiscard in the late 1050s and early 1060s.

[8] Henry was in Sicily from c.1094 and may have been married to one of Roger’s daughters by a previous marriage but there is no direct evidence for his lands until 1113. It is possible that he was granted the lordship not by Roger I but by Adelaide, the latter’s widow (and Henry’s sister) during her regency following the count’s death in 1101.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Aspects of Chartism: Alternate directions 1843-1848

Older historians, especially Mark Hovell and Julius West, gave the impression that the Chartist movement after 1842, apart from the Land Plan, lacked ideas or activities. This was far from being the case. Some Chartists established links with European revolutionaries through organisations like the Fraternal Democrats and the Peoples’ International League. Others turned to the registration of electors. This was a way of building Chartist support in Parliament. Some returned to a revived factory movement in 1846. The proposed reorganisation of the militia led to Chartists involvement in the National Anti-Militia Association under the slogan ‘No vote, no musket’. Still others turned to socialism. This section briefly considers three important themes: the issue of English and Irish radicalism, the question of internationalism and the relationship between socialism and Chartism.

English radicalism and Irish nationalism

The alliance between English radicalism and Irish nationalism dates from the 1790s[1]. Demands for the repeal of the Act of Union were common at English working class meetings and the radical unstamped press gave substantial coverage to Irish issues in the early 1830s. There was already a large and growing Irish population in England concentrated throughout the industrial north and in London. Irish affairs especially repeal and opposition to coercion played a central part in radical thinking in the 1830s and 1840s. O’Connor began his career as an Irish MP and he represented County Cork between 1832 and 1835. His appeals for social justice for Ireland were closely linked with his calls for justice for English workers. Many of the Chartist leaders and activists were of Irish descent and English working class radicals unwaveringly took up the issue of Irish social and political rights. However, there was conflict between Irish workers and Chartists in Manchester in 1841 and 1842. While Epstein, rightly, argues that it would be a mistake to generalise from this local situation. However, Irish opposition to Chartism in other areas did draw workers away from Chartist involvement. He goes on to suggest that “the fragmentation within sections of the northern industrial working class, between Irish and English workers, was a source of Chartist weakness.”[2]

It is difficult to calculate the degree of Irish support for O’Connor and the Chartist movement[3]. Traditional studies have tended to focus on the antagonistic relationship between O’Connell and O’Connor. Irish immigrants remained aloof from Chartism because of the policy of O’Connell and the leaders of the Irish associations and the critical attitudes of the Catholic clergy[4]. There was no formal link between Irish nationalism and Chartism until after 1847. Treble took the view that it was not until 1848 that the ‘vast majority’ of the Irish in the northern industrial counties had any significant contact with Chartism. Dorothy Thompson, by contrast, has shown that informal co-operation between Chartists and Irish workers were common especially in the smaller manufacturing towns and villages before 1848. However, 1848 was different in several respects from anything that had happened earlier and Treble was right to emphasise the differences.

Important shifts took place among the Irish leadership following O’Connell’s death in mid-1847. First, the Irish Democratic Federation, founded in London in August-September 1847, campaigned for repeal. In addition, Fintan Lalor’s ideas had an important influence on the policies of Young Ireland from the early 1847[5]. His social radicalism was invigorated by news of successful revolution in Europe in 1848. Finally, O’Connor made a vigorous attack on the Crimes and Outrages Bill in the House of Commons. In December 1847, he still hoped to liberate both Ireland and Britain[6]. “Ireland for the Irish! And England for the English! Is the mutual cry. Let it be shouted, side by side…it will be the knell of oppression – it will be the birth-peal of freedom – for the solitary fortresses of tyranny must sink before the confluence of our united nations.”  These developments all helped to create a new understanding and provided the basis for an informal but firm agreement of mutual support between the Confederation and the Chartists. It is clear that the major centres of Chartist activity in 1848 – London, Bradford and the West Riding, Manchester and its surrounding towns and Liverpool – were precisely those towns and regions where there was a concentration of Irish immigrants.

These developments posed problems that the English government had not previously experienced. In 1839 and, to a lesser extent in 1842, Ireland had been relatively quiet and this allowed the government to move troops from Ireland to the mainland. In 1847 and 1848 this was not the case. There was, however, one important difference between the Chartist and the Irish radicals. The Chartists were essentially constitutional in their approach while the Irish in England were no longer restrained by O’C’onnell’s prescription of physical force. The leaders of Young Ireland in Dublin quickly realised that diversionary activities in England would keep troops tied down. This placed a great strain on the Chartist-Irish alliance. The Kennington Common meeting on 10th April was followed by violent confrontations between the police and radicals in early June and by plans by a small group of London Chartists and Confederates for a rising on 16th August. It is clear that the Chartists failed to exploit the full physical possibilities of their alliance with the Irish.

John Belchem argues that Anglo-Irish co-operation in 1847 and 1848 did not strengthen the working class challenge in early Victorian England. In many respects, it helped the government more than the Chartists. The Times commented on 10th April that  “The Repealers wish to make as great a hell of this island as they have made of their own.”  Punch showed the Chartists revelling in rape pillage and massacre. The establishment press exploited the Irish card as often as they could. There is ample evidence of distrust and antagonism towards Irish immigrants in this period. Racial and religious prejudice formed an important part in the social consciousness of majority of ordinary people who took little or no part in the events of 1848. Among the middle classes, the close links between Chartism and the Irish played a significant part in their support for the forces of order in 1848. Anglo-Irish political solidarity in the late 1840s gave way to anti-Irish riots in the 1850s and 1860s.

Chartism and foreign policy

Chartism was a remarkably insular movement, suspicious of foreign and colonial causes because they tended to deflect attention away from the Charter and the Land Plan[7]. O’Connor, McDouall and O’Brien were the leading advocates of the view that Britain had perhaps the worst despotism in Europe and that the first priority should be the rights of the English working class. O’Connor reflected the broad opinion of his supporters when he said in July 1847 that[8] “Let Englishmen and Irishmen and Scotchmen work together for England, Ireland and Scotland – let Frenchmen work for France, Russians for Russia and Prussians for Prussia. I will work for home sweet home.”

Fear of Russian aggression was an important feature of the 1830s and 1840s. The critical figure in fanning these fears was David Urquhart[9]. He was able to build up middle class support, especially in the north-east. The anti-Whig flavour of his campaign and an appeal to patriotism led to some Chartist support in 1839 and 1840. William Cardo, a Marylebone shoemaker, Robert Lowery and John Warden of Bolton formed the core of a Chartist ‘foreign policy’ group and gained the support of the Northern Liberator[10]. They put the immediate threat of Russian domination before the long-term objectives of the Charter. In late 1840, O’Connor attacked the Northern Liberator and the ‘wild goose-chase’ of ‘Foreign Policy Chartists’ and the new movement collapsed. He also attacked Harney and Jones for their fixation on foreign affairs later in the 1840s but to less effect. There was, however, a second dimension to O’Connor’s attitudes. He was intensely suspicious of middle class collaboration. Middle class radicals like Urquhart, Miall and Sturge dominated the ‘foreign policy’ group and the successive peace movements of the 1830s and 1840s.

In the early years of the movement, some Chartists were extremely interested in foreign policy. America and, to a lesser extent, Switzerland and the Scandinavian states were seen as models of constitutional and political freedom. France, Poland and Hungary were admired for their revolutionary spirit. This was paralleled by intense suspicion of the foreign policies of successive British governments. The Chartists saw the war scares of 1840-1, 1844, 1846 and 1848 as either follies or attempts to divert attention away from the movement. Britain’s support for what the Chartists saw as the ‘corrupt monarchies and priesthoods’ of Europe was also criticised. The visit to England of Tsar Nicholas in 1844 led to widespread Chartist protest. Colonial policy was also denounced. There was a genuine ambiguity in Chartist attitudes. Some attacked the whole notion of imperialism while others wanted the working classes to benefit from the fruits of empire. Maladministration and brutality in the colonies had their parallels in Britain. Harney’s accounts of problems in Canada and of the Opium War with China were followed in the late 1850s by Jones’ analysis of the Indian Mutiny. In larger associations at Nottingham, Newcastle, South London, Todmorden and Sheffield there were ‘international committees’. Addresses, like those contained in Lovett’s autobiography, and émigr¾ funds testify to Chartist awareness and their sense of international responsibility. By the late 1840s, fear of Chartist violence was frequently associated with revolutions abroad.

Chartism and European radicalism

Hetherington and Lovett pioneered the view that Chartism was an integral part of a wider European movement for working-class freedom. In 1844, Lovett formed the Democratic Friends of All Nations that merged into the People’s International League in 1847[11]. He often took a more aggressive stance against foreign oppression than his reputation, as a moderate would suggest. In a series of LWMA addresses, beginning in the mid-1830s, Lovett developed ideas that were militant and increasingly pacifist. The world, he argued, would be a safer place for social and political reform if all sources of human conflict were removed. He saw the world organised along the lines of nationality and fused this with class solidarity and non-violent resistance. He sought ‘freedom, peace and brotherhood’. Wiener sums up Lovett’s attitudes in the following terms[12] “There was a powerful element of idealism in Lovett’s thought…For him, however, this idealism was not religious, as it was for Sturge and Miall, nor was it primarily economic, as it was for Cobden, it exemplified a type of moral illuminism shorn of political trappings. Lovett was optimistic about the chances of peace, almost as if the decline of his political influence had given him an incentive to reach out to the future.”

Lovett was highly critical of the Society of Fraternal Democrats founded in 1845. This was the principal organ of class conscious internationalism of the Chartist left principally Jones and Harney. They saw nationalism not as an end in itself but as an intermediate step on the path to international revolution. Their approach was more aggressive, a result of the active involvement of exiled continental revolutionaries living in London. The Fraternal Democrats exerted limited influence on Chartism except in the excitement raised by the 1848 revolutions[13]. Harney wrote, in the immediate aftermath of the February revolution in France that[14] “We have been meeting, talking and writing for the last ten years and have not got our Charter; the French, with three days’ work, have obtained the Charter and something more.”  The subsequent repression in France did not dent Jones’ and Harney’s belief in the need for a true social revolution. He continued to educate the British people in the 1850s about the realities of political conditions in Europe through papers like the Democratic Review and the Red Republican.

John Saville locates the radical challenge of 1848 ‘within the triangle of revolutionary Paris, insurgent Ireland and a revitalised native Chartist movement in London and the industrial North.’[15] Shared enthusiasm for the February revolution, he argues, served to unite Chartists and nationalists throughout the United Kingdom. This consensus was, as Harney recognised towards the end of his life, short-lived. The events of 1848 were, according to McGrath, ‘one huge monument of misfortune’. Many emigr¾s returned home and the British government tightened restrictions on those who remained. Chartists were denounced as the counterparts of cowardly foreign assassins and communists. The Whig government was seen increasingly as the stalwart defender of British freedom. The international ‘reign of terror’ of the next few years led some Chartists to talk vaguely about united action by Irish, American and European reformers. Increasingly, however, many Chartists joined middle class Liberals in demonstrations in favour of European revolutionaries like Kossuth and Garibaldi. Others like Jones and O’Brien moved on to the social-democratic organisations that dominated radical internationalism in the 1850s. Few, like Harney, kept the faith.

Chartism and socialism

Gregory Claeys argues in his study of early British socialism that any “study of the relations between Owenism and Chartism is hampered by a variety of obstacles.’[16] Not least is the unsystematic way in which historians have treated Owenite-Chartist links[17]. Gammage has little to say on the subject except in the context of the post-1848 Chartist programme. Mark Hovell argued that only a few Chartists were ‘downright Socialists’ with the majority discounting Owen because of his communism. Julius West, by contrast, argued in 1920 the Chartism was ‘permeated with Socialist ideas’ because of their support for state intervention in the economy. Post-war historians tended to de-emphasise the links between the two movements with J.T. Ward arguing that ‘Socialist theories never influenced O’Connor – or most of his followers.’ Some local studies have extended our understanding of links between Owenites and Chartists while many others simply fail to mention the connection at all.

There was much in common between early Socialists and Chartists[18]. They broadly agreed about the devastation of rural life and the alienation and distress caused by the new capitalist society. Some people chose to belong to both camps. David Jones gave three examples: Isaac Ironside[19] of Sheffield, John Goodwyn Barnby, poet and ‘communist’ and Thomas Liversey, Chartist leader and treasurer of the Rochdale Owenite Institution[20]. However, competition between the two groups was perhaps inevitable. The Chartists were, in general, less bold in their analysis of existing society and their vision of the new. For Owenites, the Chartist programme was ‘crude and undigested’. They also disagreed about method. Owen rejected political action and threats of violence. O’Connor believed that ‘Knowledge without political power is useless…only a great political movement can obtain the new moral world’[21]. The Chartist press vigorously denounced the Owenites on various grounds creating tensions on both sides. It attacked their antipathy to religion. Christian Chartists took their beliefs seriously. It argued that Socialism had been tried and failed. Specific economic charges were levelled against Socialism especially the call for redistribution of property. Chartist attitudes to economics varied but many would have agreed with O’Connor who argued in 1843 that ‘a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work was the aim and end of the People’s Charter’. Communitarian equality, as suggested by Owen, was never part of the Chartists political agenda. Tension between the two groups was a recurrent problem. In the late 1830s and early 1840s, Owenites often left the movement because of its militancy and limited aims. In Leeds, for example, John Bray and the Owenites withdrew from the Working Men’s Association. Owenites complained in Halifax, Bath and Dunfermline that Chartists lecturers distracted people from socialism. Rivalry and even opposition was common and the two movements were often influential in the same areas.

There is ample evidence that, even before 1848, more Chartists were moving towards socialism. The Northern Star carried several articles and letters stating that landlords had no intrinsic right to the soil but only to the implements used on and the improvements to it. These were motivated, in part, by the need to support the Land Plan but increasingly the language used about it and Owenite communitarianism became almost indistinguishable. In early 1847, the Fraternal Democrats became more forthright in their support for land reform and the common ownership of land. At the heart of this move was Bronterre O’ Brien, who had argued for land nationalisation since the late 1830s, and the propagandist abilities of Harney. It was, however, 1848 that crystallised much Chartist thinking. Claeys argues that there were three main reasons for this[22]. First, the Land Plan was an unlikely agent for social transformation. It was simply too gradual and unwieldy. Secondly, the Kennington Common meeting and subsequent events in 1848-9 marked the end of ‘mass platform’ politics and discredited its leadership. Finally, Chartism ceased to be a narrow British political movement. European socialist ideas became an integral part of British radical thinking. The result was the acceptance of a largely socialist programme by the Chartist movement in 1851. The significance of this development was that it allowed Chartists, for the first time, to address the question of what would happen after the Charter was achieved. As Claeys[23] says, “It raised new questions about the ends, rather than the means, of reform.”


[1] The Irish dimension to Chartism will be considered in detail later.

[2] Epstein The Lion of Freedom, pages 270-271.

[3] Roger Swift The Irish in Britain 1815-1914. Perspectives and Sources, London, 1990 is a brief general survey invaluable for setting the issue in context. D. Thompson ‘Ireland and the Irish in English Radicalism before 1850’, in J. Epstein and D. Thompson (eds.) The Chartist Experience, London, 1982, J.H. Treble ‘O’Connor, O’Connell and the Attitudes of Irish immigrants towards Chartism in the North of England 1838-48’, in J. Butt and I.F. Clarke (eds.) The Victorians and Social Protest, Newton Abbot, 1973, R. O’Higgins ‘The Irish Influence in the Chartist Movement’, Past and Present, volume 20 (1961) and John Belchem ‘English Working-Class Radicalism and the Irish 1815-50’, in Roger Swift and Sheridan Gilley (eds.) The Irish in the Victorian City, London, 1985 form the best guide to the controversy about the extent of Irish involvement in England popular radicalism.

[4] On O’Connell’s policies in the late 1830s and 1840s, see Oliver MacDonagh The Emancipist. Daniel O’Connell 1830-1847, London, 1989. Unfortunately, this is disappointingly thin on relations between the Association and the Chartists.

[5] There are important parallels between Lalor’s idea of ‘moral insurrection’ and his notion of an agrarian general strike, and the ideas of the Chartists in 1842. James S. Donnelly ‘A famine in Irish politics’, in W.E. Vaughan (ed.) A New History of Ireland: volume v Ireland under the Union I 1801-1870, Oxford, 1989, pages 365-366 provides a convenient summary of his ideas.

[6] Northern Star, 4th December 1847.

[7] H. Weisser British Working-Class Movements and Europe 1815-48, Manchester, 1975 provides the best general view of radical attitudes. David Jones Chartism and the Chartists, London, 1975, pages 159-168 furnishes a more focussed discussion while F.C. Mather (ed.) Chartism and Society, London, 1980, pages 119-137 provides useful sources.

[8] Northern Star, July 1847 quoted in Weisser British Working-Class Movements and Europe 1815-48, page 153.

[9] On Urquhart, see the elegant essay by A.J.P. Taylor ‘Dissenting Rivals: Urquhart and Cobden’, in his The Trouble Makers. Dissent over Foreign Policy 1792-1939, London, 1957, pages 37-61 and Richard Shannon ‘David Urquhart and the Foreign Affairs Committees’ in P. Hollis (ed.) Pressure from Without in early Victorian England, London, 1974, pages 239-261. J.H. Gleason The Genesis of Russophobia in Great Britain: A Study of the Interaction of Public Opinion, Harvard University Press, 1950 provides a more general overview of attitudes.

[10] Joan Hugman ‘A Small Drop of Ink: Tyneside Chartism and the Northern Liberator, in Owen Ashton, Robert Fyson and Stephen Roberts (eds.) The Chartist Legacy, Merlin, 1999, pages 24-47 is a useful study of the impact of this newspaper.

[11] On the development of Lovett’s internationalist stance see Joel Wiener William Lovett, Manchester, 1989, pages 108-113.

[12] Wiener William Lovett, page 112.

[13] On radical reaction to the 1848 revolutions, see Margot C. Finn After Chartism. Class and nation in English radical politics, 1848-1874, Cambridge, 1993.

[14] Jones Chartism and the Chartists, page 164.

[15] John Saville 1848: The British State and the Chartist Movement, Cambridge, 1987, page 1.

[16] G. Claeys Citizens and saints. Politics and anti-politics in early British socialism, Cambridge, 1989, page 208.

[17] By the 1830s the term ‘Socialist’ had become synonymous with ‘Owenite’. I have used both terms inter-changeably in this section.

[18] On Owenism the more valuable study remains J.F.C. Harrison Robert Owen and the Owenites in Britain and America, London, 1969.

[19] On Ironside, see the biography in J. Bellamy and John Saville (eds.) Dictionary of Labour Biography, volume ii, Macmillan, 1974, pages 201-207.

[20] Jones Chartism and the Chartists, page 37.

[21] Jones Chartism and the Chartists, page 39.

[22] Claeys Citizens and saints, pages 268-9.

[23] Claeys Citizens and saints, page 272.