In the study of torsion-free abelian groups of finite rank the notions of irreducibility, field of definition and E-ring have played significant rôles. These notions are tied together in the following theorem of R. S. Pierce:
THEOREM. Let R be a ring whose additive group is torsion free finite rank irreducible and let Γ be the centralizer of QR as a QE(R) module. Then Γ is the unique smallest field of definition of R. Moreover, Γ ∩ R is an E-ring, in fact, it is a maximal E-subring of R.
In this paper we consider extensions of Pierce's result to the infinite rank case. This leads to the concept of local irreducibility for torsion free groups.