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Ireland: Politics and Society through the Press, 1760-1922

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About this Collection

Ireland: Politics and Society through the Press, 1760-1922

Publishers Foreward

Primary Source Microfilm, an imprint of the Gale Group, is proud to present Ireland: Politics and Society through the Press, 1760-1922. This microfilm collection contains a comprehensive selection of international, national and local titles across the three centuries that newspapers have been printed in Ireland. It will facilitate the work of all who are engaged in Irish Studies, allowing researchers across the range of disciplines to access a number of the most formative and informed newspapers and periodicals that illuminate virtually every aspect and phase of Irish history, society, economy, politics and religion from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.

The microfilm collection is accompanied by an index. Available in digital as well as in hardback paper format, this index will open the contents of a large number of Irish newspapers and periodicals to closer inspection, making this extraordinary historical material available to a wider public.

A special thank you is due to Dr. Marie-Louise Legg whose comprehensive knowledge and generous advice have very substantially contributed to the preparation of the collection for publication.

Justice Williams
History Editor
Primary Source Microfilm
Reading, UK

Technical Note

Primary Source Microfilm has set itself the highest standards in the field of archivally-permanent library microfilming. Our microfilm publications conform to the recommendations of the guides to good microforming and micropublishing practice and meet the standards established by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Attention should be drawn to the nature of the printed material within the collection. This sometimes consists of articles printed or written with a variety of inks and on paper that has become severely discolored or stained which renders the original document difficult to read. Occasionally volumes have been tightly bound and this leads to text loss. Such inherent characteristics present difficulties of image and contrast which stringent tests and camera alterations cannot entirely overcome.

Introduction by Dr. Marie-Louise Legg, University of London

The Irish press was, until recently, a neglected source for historians and students of literature. Now, however, the role of newspapers has been increasingly emphasized for research into the development of Irish politics and society. Examples include Paul Bew, Vincent Comerford and James S. Donnelly, who have drawn attention to the importance of newspapers in studies of the Famine, Fenianism and popular devotion.

Newspapers were an essential strand in the growth of Irish society and the Irish economy. They were at once a maker of, and a response to, the self-awareness of Ireland as a country separate from Britain, and their advertisements furthered the burgeoning commerce of the country. Their dependence on news from England, which had formed their main source after 1760, waned after the mid-nineteenth century. Post-Famine Ireland recognized the need for industrialization, and newspapers played a great part in the rise of nationalism.

A starting date of 1760 has been chosen for this project because it marks the accession of George III to the throne and the election of patriots to the Irish parliament the following year. The end-year is 1922, when the Dáil approved the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and British rule in Ireland came formally to an end.

The newspapers of the eighteenth century are used mainly for the material they provide on social and consumer interests, though increasingly politics became their main focus. Advertisements reflect changing tastes through information on imports from abroad, food and drink, articles of clothing and types of decoration. News items from Ireland reflect interest in marriages, fortunes, disasters and scandals. However, in dealing with politics the Irish eighteenth century press must be treated with care. Secret service monies were granted to some papers to support the government, which also provided subsidies through the publication of proclamations and official advertisements.

Throughout the nineteenth century, political movements recognized that the press was an important vehicle for their propaganda. Gladstone assisted the rise of the Irish nationalist press when he abolished taxes on paper, advertisements and print in the 1850s. Newspapers were used by the movements for Repeal, for Home Rule, the Land League and Parnellism. After initial hesitation, the Fenian leader, James Stephens founded the Irish People.

In the twentieth century, and in particular during the First World War, Irish newspapers were subject to seizure and censorship by Dublin Castle. Newspapers were the voice of the Roman Catholic Church, the Orange Order and the Presbyterian Church, and the dwindling conservative press in the south of Ireland reflected the fears of members of the minority Church of Ireland. The Irish press published the writings of James Clarence Mangan, Thomas Davis, J.M. Synge, W.B. Yeats and James Joyce.

Title section policy

Newspapers and journals have been chosen for inclusion here for their importance at different periods of history and for their appeal to a broad range of research interests. Demographers and students of urban history and social change use newspapers for evidence on the development of towns and industries and emigration abroad. Genealogists and family historians look to the press not only for advertisements of births and deaths, but also for land holdings and general social activity.

Specific Research areas supported by this project

  • Eighteenth-century patriots and radicals and the 1782 parliamentary reforms

The Dublin Evening Post (c.1778-1875) supported Henry Flood, the patriot leader, in opposition to Henry Grattan, whose articles were published by its chief rival, the Freemans Journal (Dublin 1763-1922). The Hibernian Journal or Chronicle of Liberty (Dublin 1771-1821) also supported Henry Flood and initially advocated the non-sectarian policies of the United Irishmen, as did the Hibernian Telegraph (Dublin 1798-1810). The Northern Star (Belfast 1792-97) was founded by the United Irishmen and had a large circulation, though repeatedly prosecuted by the government. The Volunteers Journal (Dublin 1783-86) was an anti-government paper which wanted severance from England, and the Cork Evening Post (1755-1806) published the resolutions of the Cork Union Volunteers in the 1780s.

The Pilot (Dublin 1829-49) unswervingly supported OConnell, despite his maverick attitude to the press. The Limerick Reporter and Tipperary Vindicator (Limerick 1839-96) and the Galway Vindicator (1841-99) were founded to advance OConnells cause in the provinces. With the rise of Young Ireland, Charles Gavan Duffy, Thomas Davis and others founded The Nation (Dublin 1842-96), which published both political news and essays, and poetry. The Irish Felon (1848) succeeded John Mitchels United Irishman (1848) to advocate insurrection and violence.

As well as the Dublin papers, such as The Nation, provincial papers like the Sligo Champion, the Connaught Telegraph, the Limerick Reporter and Tipperary Vindicator, the Kilkenny Journal, and the Galway Vindicator deal with the day-to-day events in the course of the disaster. The Dublin Mercantile Advertiser and the Farmers Gazette and Journal of Practical Horticulture (Dublin 1842-1963) cover the movements of markets and prices during the period.

The Tenant Right movement was the first political group to use the press to real effect to advance its cause. The Northern Whig (Belfast 1824-1963) organized the Tenant Right conference in 1852, attended by the editors of the Limerick Reporter and Tipperary Vindicator (Limerick 1839-96), the Londonderry Journal (1772-) and The Nation (Dublin 1842-96).

Both overtly and covertly, Fenianism and proto-Fenians used the press, with varying success in the face of the authorities. The Ulsterman in Belfast, later the Irishman in Dublin (Belfast/Dublin 1852-81) and Richard Piggotts Flag of Ireland (Dublin 1868-81) published articles by Fenians. Martin OBrennans Connaught Patriot (Tuam 1859-69) put forward the policies of the National Brotherhood of St. Patrick, the Fenian front organization, as did the Galway American (1862-63). The short-lived Irish People (1865-66) was founded by James Stephens, the Fenian leader.

Various papers, including Freemans Journal (Dublin 1763-1922), and The Nation (Dublin 1842-96) advanced the cause of the Home Rule, as did the Kilkenny Journal (1766-1965), but the number of papers who professed to advocate Home Rule policies is large.

United Ireland/Suppressed United Ireland/Insuppressible (Dublin 1881-98), was established by C.S. Parnell to assist the National Land League through its branches all over Ireland. In the provinces, such papers as the Kerry Sentinel (Tralee 1877-1918) and the Sligo Champion (Sligo 1836-) are valuable for their news of the activities of branches of the League and their resolutions. Patrick Fords Irish World (New York 1870-1922) founded branches all over America, and brought news of the Land League from Ireland. Although James Daly, owner of the Connaught Telegraph (1830-) was the organizer of the first Land League meeting in 1879, he was in general hostile to its leaders in Dublin. The Cork Constitution (1822-1924), a conservative paper, provides the reactions of the increasingly beleaguered minority.

The Cork Accent (1910) and the Cork Free Press (1910-16) were the anti-sectarian papers founded by William OBrien and the All-For-Ireland League. The different political voices in the debate over Irish independence are provided in D.P. Morans The Leader (Dublin 1900-71) and Arthur Griffiths United Irishman (1899-1906).

The Dublin Builder/Irish Builder (1842-1966) has information on new and ancient building in Ireland, together with town plans. It is also of interest to genealogists as it has regular articles on family history. The Dublin Penny Journal/Irish Penny Journal (1832-3) was founded by Caesar Otway and the antiquarian George Petrie to make the history and antiquities of Ireland known to its people.

Pues Occurances (Dublin 1703-80) specializes in advertisements for country houses. The Belfast Mercantile Journal (1822-94) and the Dublin Mercantile Advertiser (ca. 1818-65) both provide information on prices, markets and commodities over a long period of time. The Farmers Gazette and Journal of Practical Horticulture (Dublin 1842-1963) has detailed information on sales in the Landed Estates Court and news of the activities of agricultural societies. The Irish Law Times and Solicitors Journal (1867-96) has news of the course of current cases and judgements, and is of particular value in the absence of legal archives.

The Irish Ecclesiastical Record (1864-1968) was founded by Cardinal Cullen to disseminate news of the hierarchy at a time of rising nationalism. The Irish Catholic (1888-) has the work of the Catholic Church and charities all over the country and news from abroad.

The Irish Homestead (Dublin 1895-1923) was founded by Horace Plunkett as part of his agricultural co-operative movement, but it also published fiction, including that of new Irish writers like James Joyce. D.P. Moran founded The Leader (Dublin 1900-71) to attack the influence of England and the English language in Ireland, and Arthur Griffiths New Ireland Review (Dublin 1894-1911) published George Russell (AE), W.B. Yeats and George Moore. Fáinne An Lae/An Claidheamh Soluis (Dublin 1898-1917) was the bilingual journal of the Gaelic League which supported the Gaelic cultural ideas of Douglas Hyde.

The press, especially in the nineteenth century, reflected the strong relationship between Ireland and its people scattered abroad. Newspapers, particularly on the west coast advertised emigration agents and passages, and the Irish World was founded in New York in 1870 to maintain the links between Irish emigrants and their mother country.


Selected Bibliography

Researchers using the Irish press need to take some care to establish the policies of the titles editors, which varied from time to time according to whether the paper was in receipt of government money or possibly keeping a low profile because of recent prosecution. The select bibliography below has information on the background to a large number of newspapers which should prove a useful guide.

J.R.R. Adams, The Printed Word and the Common Man (1987)

Bernadette Cunningham and Márie Kennedy (eds.), The Experience of Reading: Irish Historical Perspectives (1999)

Brian Farrell (ed.), Communications and Community in Ireland (1984)

Brian Inglis, The Freedom of the Press in Ireland, 1784-1841 (1954)

Marie-Louise Legg, Newspapers and Nationalism: The Irish Provincial Press, 1850-1892 (1998)

James Loughlin, "Constructing the Political Spectacle: Parnell, the press and national leadership, 1879-1886": in D. George Boyce and Alan ODay (eds.), Parnell in Perspective (1991)

R.J. Munter, The History of Irish Newspaper, 1685-1760 (1967)

Niall O Cosáin, Print and Popular Culture in Ireland, 1759-1850 (1997)

James OToole and Sara Smyth, Report of the Newsplan Project in Ireland (Revised edition, 1998)

W.E. Vaughan (ed.), New History of Ireland, V: Ireland, 1800-70 (1989)

Marie-Louise Legg, General Editor
London, January 2000