Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
While the historiography of English perceptions of the Irish in the later period of the Victorian era is extensive, there is a dearth of research in tracing the origins of these perceptions. The connection between England and Ireland dates back centuries, and the relationship was neutral at best and extremely violent at worst. Historians such as L. Perry Curtis have analyzed the mass media of these later decades to argue that the English saw their neighbors as subhuman creatures in the racial hierarchy.;However, this image did not emerge from a single event, but rather evolved over the tumultuous earlier decades marked by violence, starvation, disease, and immigration. And it did not evolve without a clear purpose. The Act of Union brought Ireland into the larger political unit of the United Kingdom. In theory, the Irish were now full partners within that kingdom, though in reality their Catholicism became the means to deny them equal status and rights. In the fight for emancipation, many Irish became involved in the Chartist movement. As the movement grew in strength, the press increasingly characterized it as both aggressive and Irish, linking the two in the public perception of this growing threat to society stability.;The Great Famine followed the Chartist workers' revolution, and millions of Irish starved or emigrated between 1845 and 1855. In spite of numerous policies and plans from Parliament, the disaster seemed to have no end or solution. English relief taxes vanished and the Irish poured into industrial centers like Liverpool and Manchester. Ghettos, disease and poverty became synonymous with the Irish people, thus laying the groundwork for the middle class to conveniently strike this biologically poverty-stricken race from their charitable guilt.
Scully, Traci J., "From Peasant to Pariah: Changing English Perceptions of the Irish from the 1820s Through the 1860s" (2011). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 3462.