Irish History Live

Unionism Bibliography

The Development of Unionism

Alvin Jackson, Ireland 1798-1998: politics and war (Oxford, 1999), 215-44

The best introduction to the formation of unionist opposition to Home Rule by arguably the best expositor of unionism in the period 1885 and 1920. Particularly good on the various parts of the unionist coalition, especially southern unionism, and their specific contribution to the unionist cause.

Richard English and Graham Walker (eds.), Unionism in modern Ireland: new perspectives on politics and culture (Basingstoke, 1996)

A major contribution to the study of Unionist politics from the first Home Rule crisis to the present day. The essays by Ian McBride, Graham Walker, and David Burnett are particularly relevant for the period up to 1920.

David Hempton and Myrtle Hill, Evangelical Protestantism in Ulster society 1740-1890 (London, 1992)

An exemplary study of the religious and political dimensions of evangelical Protestantism in Ulster and its role in reinforcing the unionist coalition during the first two Home Rule crises. A summary of the arguments on the relationship between evangelical religion and unionist identity may be found in chapter 5 of David Hempton’s, Religion and political culture in Great Britain and Ireland from the Glorious Revolution to the decline of empire (Cambridge, 1996).

D. G. Boyce and Alan O’Day (eds), Defenders of the Union: a survey of British and Irish Unionism since 1801 (London, 2001)

D. G. Boyce and Alan O’Day (eds), The Ulster Crisis: 1885-1921 (Basingstoke, 2006)

Two very useful collections of essays on a wide variety of themes. The Ulster Crisis is particularly relevant for sixth-from study and includes essays on nationalist and unionist politics. Of special interest is Timothy Bowman’s essay on the Ulster Volunteer Force which discusses the various ways that organization can be understood. Bowman has expanded on these in his ground-breaking book, Carson's army: the Ulster Volunteer Force, 1910-22 (Manchester, 2007).

The collection does raise fundamental questions about the definition and chronology of the Ulster Crisis.  Beginning in 1885 seems premature in the sense that opposition to Home Rule in 1892 was still organised on an all-Ireland basis and that the ‘Ulsterisation’ of unionism reached its high point only in 1912-14. Indeed these years comprised the ‘Ulster Crisis’ for A.T.Q. Stewart in his famous 1967 book of the same title. There is also a sense in which 1885 is too late. One of the questions not addressed in this collection is how Ulster was defined by unionists, which means that there is no discussion of the existence of an ‘Ulster’ identity before 1885, the use of the language of race, or the contribution of protestant religion to Ulster unionist opposition.

Graham Walker, A history of the Ulster Unionist party: protest, pragmatism and pessimism (Manchester, 2004)

Chapters One and Two provide an accessible and reliable overview of the development of Unionism and its gradual concentration in Ulster. Especially good on the different ways historians have tried to understand unionist identity.

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