The Cambridge History of Ireland
volume III, 1730-1880

Edited by James Kelly
Cambridge University Press, 2018, xxiv + 851 pp.

Book cover

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was an era of continuity as well as change. Though properly portrayed as the era of 'Protestant Ascendancy' it embraces two phases - the eighteenth century when that ascendancy was at its peak; and the nineteenth century when the Protestant elite sustained a determined rear-guard defence in the face of the emergence of modern Catholic nationalism. Employing a chronology that is not bound by traditional datelines, this volume moves beyond the familiar political narrative to engage with the economy, society, population, emigration, religion, language, state formation, culture, art and architecture, and the Irish abroad. It provides new and original interpretations of a critical phase in the emergence of a modern Ireland that, while focused firmly on the island and its traditions, moves beyond the nationalist narrative of the twentieth century to provide a history of late early modern Ireland for the twenty-first century.

This book can be purchased directly from the publishers.


Introduction: 'Interpreting Late Early Modern Ireland', James Kelly
1. 'Irish Jacobitism, 1691–1790', Vincent Morley
2. 'The Politics of Protestant Ascendancy, 1730–1790', James Kelly
3. 'Ireland during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1791–1815', Thomas Bartlett
4. 'The Impact of O’Connell, 1815–1850', Patrick M. Geoghegan
5. 'Popular Politics, 1815–1845', Maura Cronin
6. 'Society and Economy in the Long Eighteenth Century', David Dickson
7. 'The Irish Economy, 1815–1880: Agricultural Transition, the Communications Revolution and the Limits of Industrialisation', Andy Bielenberg
8. 'Population and Emigration, 1730–1845', Brian Gurrin
9. 'Women, Men and the Family, c.1730–c.1880', Sarah-Anne Buckley
10. 'The Catholic Church and Catholics in an Era of Sanctions and Restraints, 1690–1790', Thomas O’Connor
11. 'The Re-energising of Catholicism, 1790–1880', Colin Barr
12. 'Protestant Dissenters, c.1690–1800', Ian McBride
13. 'Protestantism in the Nineteenth Century: Revival and Crisis', Andrew R. Holmes
14. 'Language and Literacy in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries', Aidan Doyle
15. 'Futures Past: Enlightenment and Antiquarianism in the Eighteenth Century' Michael Brown and Lesa Ní Mhunghaile
16. 'Art and Architecture in the Long Eighteenth Century', Christine Casey
17. 'Civil Society, c.1700–c.1850', Martyn J. Powell
18. 'Sport and Recreation in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries', James Kelly
19. 'Bourgeois Ireland, or, on the Benefits of Keeping One’s Hands Clean', Ciaran O’Neill
20. 'The Growth of the State in the Nineteenth Century', Virginia Crossman
21. 'The Irish in Europe in the Eighteenth Century, 1691–1815', Liam Chambers
22. '"Irish" Migration to America in the Eighteenth Century? Or the Strange Case for the "Scots/Irish"', Patrick Griffin
23. 'Ireland and the Empire in the Nineteenth Century', Barry Crosbie
24. 'The Great Famine, 1845–1850', Peter Gray
25. 'Irish Emigration, c.1845–1900', Kevin Kenny
26. 'Post-Famine Politics, 1850–1879', Douglas Kanter
27. 'Afterword', Toby Barnard


"In a 1987 review that appeared in Past and Present, Bartlett provided a powerful critique of the New History. He argued that the series had put too much of an emphasis on high politics and as a result produced rigid chronologies that primarilly refelected political institutions ... Straight away, the current volume distinguishes itself from earlier histories by not opening with an account of the Irish parliament but instead with a chapter by Vincent Morley on Irish Jacobite politics and culture, examining the ideology and world-view of the losers rather than the winers of 1690-1."

Timothy Murtagh, History Ireland, November-December 2018.

"After Vincent Morley, James Kelly and Thomas Bartlett lay out the chief contours of Irish politics in the eighteenth century and during the revolutionary years of 1791 to 1815, Patrick Geoghegan and Maura Cronin analyse the character of both high and popular politics in the first half of the nineteenth century. Morley’s piece is especially rich in its use of Irish-language material, while primary references enhance the work of the other contributors to this part of the volume."

K. Theodore Hoppen, Irish Historical Studies, 42 (2018).

"Politics occupies less attention than normal for such edited books, a little over 100 pages. But the politics section does effectively extend politics beyond the elite. Vincent Morley brings his enviable mastery of Irish-language sources to look at pervasive Jacobitism at every level of Catholic society. And though the cessation of papal recognition of the Stuarts in 1766 permitted the beginnings of the campaign for Catholic emancipation — as the middling sort argued that Catholicism was not incompatible with loyalty to a Protestant monarch — Irish-language sources reveal the pervasiveness and continuation of popular Jacobitism."

Marianne Elliott, Eighteenth-Century Ireland; Irish an Dá Chultúr, 34 (2019).