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‘from education, from duty, and from principle’: Irish Catholic loyalty in context, 1829-1874

  • Richard A. Keogh (a1)

The passage of the Emancipation Act in 1829 presented an opportunity for Catholics to reimagine their loyalty as equal subjects for the first time under the union between Great Britain and Ireland. This article explores the way Catholic loyalty was conceived in the decades that followed the act of 1829 through to the mid 1870s, when there was renewed focus on the civil allegiance of Catholics following the declaration of Papal infallibility. Historians are increasingly exploring a range of social, political and religious identities in nineteenth century Ireland, beyond the rigid binary paradigm of Catholic nationalisms and Protestant loyalisms that has dominated Irish historiography. However, Catholic loyalty in particular remains an anachronism and lacks sufficient conceptual clarity. Our understanding of a specifically Catholic variant of loyalty and its public and associational expression, beyond a number of biographical studies of relatively unique individuals, remains limited. By providing an exposition of episodes in the history of Catholic loyalty in the early and mid-Victorian years this article illuminates the phenomenon. It demonstrates that Irish Catholic loyalty took on different expressive forms, which were dependent on the individuals proclaiming their loyalty, their relationship to the objects of their loyalty, and its reception by the British state and Protestant establishment.

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The author wishes to thank Dr Ciaran O’Neill, and the anonymous reviewers of British Catholic History for their comments on an earlier draft of this article.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

G. F. A. Best , ‘The Protestant Constitution and its Supporters, 1800-1829’ in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Fifth Series, 8 (1958): 105-127

Colin Reid , ‘“An Experiment in Constructive Unionism”: Isaac Butt, Home Rule and Federalist Political Thought During the 1870s’, English Historical Review 129 (2014): 333

Richard A. Keogh , ‘“Nothing is so bad for the Irish as Ireland alone”: William Keogh and Catholic Loyalty’, Irish Historical Studies 38 (2012): 234-235

S. Karly Kehoe , ‘Accessing Empire: Irish Surgeons and the Royal Navy, 1840-1880’, Social History of Medicine 26 (2013): 207

Vivian Bickford-Smith , ‘African Nationalist or British Loyalist? The Complicated Case of Tiyo Soga’, History Workshop Journal 71 (2011): 77

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Emmet Larkin , ‘The Devotional Revolution in Ireland, 1850-75’, The American Historical Review 77 (1972): 625-652

Jonathan Gant , Irish Terrorism in the Atlantic Community, 1865-1922 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

Dermot Roantree , ‘William Monsell and Papal Infallibility: The Workings of an Inopportunist’s MindArchivium Hibernicum 43 (1988): 120

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British Catholic History
  • ISSN: 2055-7973
  • EISSN: 2055-7981
  • URL: /core/journals/british-catholic-history
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