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Introduction – Ireland and Finland, 1860–1930: comparative and transnational histories

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*Department of History, Trinity College Dublin, and Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, Aarhus University, Denmark,
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1 For a call to locate the Irish Revolution within wider transnational frameworks, see Whelehan Niall, ‘The Irish Revolution, 1912–1923’ in Alvin Jackson (ed.), The Oxford handbook of modern Irish history (Oxford, 2014), pp 621644 .

2 See, for example, Tepora Tuomas and Roselius Aapo (eds), The Finnish Civil War 1918: history, memory, legacy (Leiden, 2014); Ozinsky Pavel and Eloranta Jari, ‘Historicising divergence: a comparative analysis of the revolutionary crises in Russia and Finland’ in Jari Eloranta, Eric Golson, Andrei Markevich and Nikolaus Wolf (eds), Economic history of warfare and state formation (Tokyo, 2016), pp 103116 ; Sulkunen Irma, ‘An international comparison of women’s suffrage: the cases of Finland and New Zealand in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’ in Women’s Journal of History, xxvii, no. 4 (Winter 2015), pp 88111 .

3 Helsingin Sanomat, 26 Mar. 2016.

4 Newby A. G., Éire na Rúise: An Fhionlainn agus Éire ar thóir na saoirse (Dublin, 2016).

5 Jackson John Hampden, ‘Suomi ja Irlanti: eräitä vertauskohtia’ in Suomalainen Suomi, vi (1937), pp 415421 . See also Coyne Edward J., ‘Finland and its lessons for Ireland’ in Studies, xxviii, no. 112 (Dec. 1939), pp 651661 .

6 Rokkan Stein, ‘The growth and structuring of mass politics in western Europe: reflections on possible models of explanation’ in Scandinavian Political Studies, v (1970), pp 6875 . Rokkan is also quoted in Kissane Bill, ‘Nineteenth century nationalism in Finland and Ireland: a comparative analysis’ in Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, vi, no. 2 (2000), p. 25 .

7 Ó Gráda Cormac, Ireland: a new economic history (Oxford, 1994), p. 208 .

8 Ngai Mae M., ‘Promises and perils of transnational history’ in Perspectives on History, l, no. 9 (Dec. 2012) (online edition: (16 Aug. 2016).

9 See ‘Transnational Ireland’ ( (10 July 2016).

10 See ‘History of society: re-thinking Finland, 1400–2000’ ( (10 July 2016).

11 Whelehan Niall, ‘Playing with scales: transnational history and modern Ireland’ in idem (ed.), Transnational perspectives on modern Irish history (Abingdon, 2015), p. 7 . See also Friberg Katarina, Hilson Mary and Vall Natasha, ‘Reflections on trans-national comparative history from an Anglo–Swedish perspective’ in Historik Tidskrift, cxxvii, no. 4 (2007), pp 717737 ; Levine Philippa, ‘Is comparative history possible?’ in History and Theory, liii, no. 3 (Oct. 2014), pp 331347 .

12 As Koccka and Haupt note ‘the most mature comparative history of Europe analyses similarities and differences in respect to convergence and divergence between national identities, national societies, and national cultures. There are good reasons for such an approach that are related to the huge importance of national borders, identities, cultures, and politics in structuring both the life of the past and the present images of history’ ( Haupt Heinz-Gerhard and Kocka Jürgen, ‘Comparison and beyond: traditions, scope, and perspectives of comparative history’ in idem (eds), Comparative and transnational history: central European approaches and new perspectives (New York, 2009), p. 19).

13 For a neat summary of the transnational history of nationalism, see Bayly C. A., The birth of the modern world (Oxford, 2004), pp 199243 .

14 See ‘Decade of Centenaries’ ( and ‘Suomi Finland 100’ ( (10 May 2016).

15 Leerssen Joep, National thought in Europe: a cultural history (Amsterdam, 2006), p. 169 .

16 Akenson Donald H., Ireland, Sweden and the great European migration (Liverpool, 2011); Whelehan Niall, ‘Youth, generations and collective action in nineteenth-century Ireland and Italy’ in Comparative Studies in History and Society, lvi (2014), pp 934966 ; idem , ‘Revolting peasants: southern Italy, Ireland and cartoons in comparative perspective, 1860–1882’ in International Review of Social History, lx (2015), pp 135 ; Healy Róisín, Poland in the Irish nationalist imagination 1772–1922: anti-colonialism within Europe (Basingstoke, 2017); idem , ‘Irish–Polish solidarity: Irish responses to the January Uprising of 1863–4 in Congress Poland’ in Whelehan (ed.), Transnational perspectives, p. 149 ; Zách Lili, ‘Ireland, Czechoslovakia and the question of small nations in the context of Ireland’s wartime neutrality’ in Aidan O’Malley and Eve Patten (eds), Ireland, west to east: Irish cultural connections with central and Eastern Europe (Berne, 2014); Zarka Zsuzanna, ‘Irish nationalist images of Lajos Kossuth and Hungary in the aftermath of the 1848–49 Revolution’ in Brian Heffernan (ed.), Life on the fringe? Ireland and Europe, 1800–1922 (Dublin, 2012); Nagle Shane, ‘Confessional identity as national boundary in national historical narratives: Ireland and Germany compared’ in Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism, xiii, no. 1 (2013), pp 3856 ; Kabdebó Thomas, Hungary and Ireland: historical contrasts, historical parallels (Dublin, 1992).

17 Graham Colin and Litvack Leon (eds), Ireland and Europe in the nineteenth century (Dublin 2006); Heffernan (ed.), Life on the fringe?

18 See, inter alia, O’Malley & Patten (eds), Ireland, west to east; Gerald Power and Ondřej Pilný (eds), Ireland and the Czech lands: contacts and comparisons in history and culture (Berne, 2014); Hunt Una and Pierse Mary (eds), France and Ireland: notes and narratives (Berne, 2015); Keatinge Benjamin and Pierse Mary (eds), France and Ireland in the public imagination (Berne, 2014); Maher Eamon and Maignant Catherine (eds), Franco–Irish connections in space and time (Berne, 2012).

19 See, inter alia, Cullen Louis M. and Christopher Smout T. (eds), Comparative aspects of Scottish and Irish economic and social history, 1600–1900 (Edinburgh, 1977); Devine Thomas M. and Dickson David (eds), Ireland and Scotland, 1600–1850: parallels and contrasts in economic and social development (Edinburgh, 1983). More recent volumes demonstrate the extent to which Irish–Scottish studies has become a very refined and self-reflective comparative project. See: Morris Robert J. and Kennedy Liam (eds), Ireland and Scotland: order and disorder, 1600–2000 (Edinburgh, 2005); MacIlvanney Liam and Ryan Ray (eds), Ireland and Scotland: culture and society, 1700–2000 (Dublin, 2005); Ferguson Frank and McConnel James (eds), Ireland and Scotland in the nineteenth century (Dublin, 2009).

20 Jackson Alvin, The two unions: Ireland, Scotland, and the survival of the United Kingdom, 1707–2007 (Oxford, 2012).

21 See, for instance, Cullen L. M. and Furet François (eds), Ireland and France 17th–20 th centuries: towards a comparative study of rural history (Paris, 1981); Gough Hugh and Dickson David (eds), Ireland and the French Revolution (Dublin, 1990).

22 On medieval Ireland, see, for example, Crooks Peter, ‘Medieval Ireland and the wider world’ in Studia Hib., xxxv (2009), pp 167186 and, more recently, Moran Pádraic and Warntjes Immo (eds), Early medieval Ireland and Europe: chronology, contacts, scholarship (Turnhout, 2015). For the early-modern period, see Canny Nicholas, ‘Early modern history: Ireland, Britain and the wider world’ in Hist. Jn., xlvi, no. 3 (Sept. 2003), pp 723747 . See also: O’Connor Thomas (ed.), The Irish in Europe, 1580–1815 (Dublin, 2001); O’Connor Thomas and Lyons Mary Ann (eds), Irish communities in early modern Europe (Dublin, 2006).

23 Delaney Enda, ‘Our island story? Towards a transnational history of late modern Ireland’ in I.H.S, xxxvii, no. 148 (Nov. 2011), pp 599621 . For a discussion of the contrast between the strong comparative focus of some key studies of early-modern Ireland and the often narrower focus of late-modern histories, see Whelehan, ‘Playing with scales’.

24 See Alvin Jackson’s Foreword in this issue.

25 Mauranen Tapani, Economic development in Hungary and Finland, 1860–1939 (Helsinki, 1985); Vehviläinen Olli and Pók Attila (eds), Hungary and Finland in the 20 th century (Helsinki, 2002); Branch Michael, Hartley Janet and Mączak Antoni (eds), Finland and Poland in the Russian Empire: a comparative study (London, 1995); Pullat Raimo, Suomi ja Puola: Suhteita yli Itämeren, 1917–1941 (Helsinki, 1997). For past comparative work on Ireland and Finland, see below footnotes 26–29.

26 Kissane Bill, ‘Democratization, state formation, and civil war in Finland and Ireland: a reflection on the democratic peace hypothesis’ in Comparative Political Studies, xxxvii (Oct. 2004), pp 969985 ; idem , ‘Victory in defeat? National identity after civil war in Finland and Ireland’ in John A. Hall and Siniša Malešević (eds), Nationalism and war (Cambridge, 2013), pp 321340 .

27 Coleman Michael, ‘“You might all be speaking Finnish today”: language change in nineteenth century Finland and Ireland’ in Scandinavian Journal of History, xxxv (2010), pp 4464 .

28 Nurmi Kati, ‘Imagining the nation in Irish and Finnish popular culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries’ in Heffernan (ed.) Life on the fringe?, pp 3961 .

29 Newby Andrew G., ‘Overcoming amnesia? Memorializing Finland’s “Great Hunger Years”’ in Emily Mark-FitzGerald, Oona Frawley and Marguérite Corporaal (eds), The Great Famine and its impacts: visual and material culture (Liverpool, forthcoming 2017); idem, Éire na Rúise; idem , ‘“Acting in their appropriate and wanted sphere”: the Society of Friends and Famine in Ireland and Finland, c.1845–68’ in Christine Kinealy, Patrick Fitzgerald and Gerard Moran (eds), Irish hunger and migration: myth, memory and memorialization (Quinnipiac, 2015), pp 107120 ; Newby Andrew G. and Myllyntaus Timo, ‘“The terrible visitation”: Famine in Ireland and Finland, 1845–68’ in Declan Curran, Lubomyr Luciuk and Andrew G. Newby (eds), Famines in European economic history: the last great European Famines reconsidered (Abingdon, 2015), pp 145165 ; Newby Andrew G., ‘“Rather peculiar claims on our sympathies”: Britain and Famine in Finland, 1856–68’ in Marguérite Corporaal, Christopher Cusack, Lindsay Janssen and Ruud van den Beuken (eds), Global legacies of the Great Irish Famine: transnational and interdisciplinary perspectives (Berne, 2014), pp 6180 ; idem , ‘“Neither do these tenants or their children emigrate!” Famine and transatlantic emigration from Finland in the nineteenth century’ in Atlantic Studies, xi, no. 3 (2014), pp 383402 ; idem , ‘“The cold, northern land of Suomi”: Michael Davitt and Finnish nationalism’ in Journal of Irish and Scottish Studies, vi, no. 1 (2013), pp 7392 ; idem , ‘“The manly spirit of the Finlanders”: Michael Davitt, Finland och irländsk nationalism, åren 1904–5’ in Peter Stadius, Stefan Nygård and Pirkko Hautamäki (eds), Opera et dies: Festskrift till Lars-Folke Landgrén (Helsingfors, 2011), pp 131146 .

30 On the idea of ‘routes of exchange’ between Ireland and Europe, see McDiarmid Lucy, ‘Irish men and French food’ in Graham and Litvack (eds), Ireland and Europe, pp 186198 ; Graham and Litvack, ‘Introduction’ in ibid., pp 13–15.

31 On the Irish Act of Union, see, for instance, Brown Michael, Geoghegan Patrick and Kelly James (eds), The Irish Act of Union: bicentennial essays (Dublin, 2003).

32 Particularly in comparison with its Scandinavian neighbours, Finland is well served by English-language accounts of its history. For overviews of the nineteenth century, see inter alia Kirby David, A concise history of Finland (Cambridge, 2006); Lavery Jason E., The history of Finland (Westport, CT, 2006); Meinander Henrik, A history of Finland (London, 2010).

33 See, e.g. McRae Kenneth D., Conflict and compromise in multilingual societies: Finland (Waterloo, ON, 1997), pp 4951 . For late-imperial conflict over the language question, see Polvinen Tuomo, Imperial borderland: Bobrikov and the attempted Russification of Finland, 1898–1904 (London, 1984), pp 133151 .

34 Nurmi, ‘Imagining the nation’, p. 45.

35 Vaughan W. E. and Fitzpatrick A. J. (eds), Irish historical statistics: population, 1821–1971 (A new history of Ireland, ancillary publications ii: Dublin, 1978), p. 27 ; Annuaire Statistique de Finlande (Helsinki, 1909), p. 7.

36 Newby & Myllyntaus, ‘“The terrible visitation”’, pp 145–65.

37 For an overview of the ‘land question’ in Ireland, see Dooley Terence, ‘Land and the people’ in Jackson (ed.), The Oxford handbook, pp 107125 . For the comparison with Finland, see Sami Suodenjoki’s article in this issue.

38 See Kissane, ‘Nineteenth century nationalism’; idem, ‘Democratization, state formation, and civil war’.

39 Kissane, ‘Nineteenth century nationalism’, p. 40.

40 John Bull, 17 Jan. 1891.

41 Manchester Guardian, 11 Feb. 1891.

42 [C. Harold Perrott], ‘Ireland and Finland’ in Finland: An English Journal Devoted to the Cause of the Finnish People, no. 3 (Sept. 1899), p. 11.

43 See Lee J. J., Ireland, 1912–1985: politics and society (Cambridge, 1989), p. 69 . Lee notes a (‘probably exaggerated’) figure of 4,000 fatalities arising from the Irish Civil War and offers a figure of 25,000 fatalities for the Finnish Civil War – over six times the Irish total in a country with a smaller population. More recent estimates suggest the death toll in the Finnish Civil War was even higher at 36,000 – nine times Lee’s estimate for the Irish Civil War. See: Haapala Pertti and Tikka Marko, ‘Revolution, civil war, and terror in Finland in 1918’ in Robert Gerwarth and John Horne (eds), War in peace: paramilitary violence in Europe after the Great War (Oxford, 2012), p. 72 . Deaths from lethal political violence in Ireland, including periods of warfare, over the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, are difficult to estimate precisely but were, even with high estimates, unlikely to have exceeded 12,000 in number.

44 Newby, Éire na Rúise, pp 76–90.

45 Liam Tannam statement (N.A.I., Bureau of Military History, WS 242).

46 Freeman’s Journal, 13 Aug. 1885. See also, The Nation, 15 Aug. 1885.

47 MacRaild Donald M. and Taylor Avram, Social theory and social history (London, 2004), p. 68 . The editors acknowledge the support of the Academy of Finland (grants #1264940 and #1257696) in the development of this collection. We are grateful too for the support of Carlow College as this collection emerges, in part, from a new inter-institutional arrangement between Trinity College Dublin and Carlow College and, in particular, the development of a new comparative and inter-disciplinary programme in Irish history and culture entitled ‘Reimagining Ireland’.

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