Fenian Brotherhood
   The modern derivation of the ancient Feonin Erin, pre-Christian Irish militants, the Fenian Brotherhood was a secret, oath-bound Irish nationalist society dedicated to ending English imperial rule in Ireland through physical force, political agitation, or economic pressure. Formally known as the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood, in 1858 radical nationalists organized into small units, known as circles, with branches throughout the United Kingdom, Continental Europe, North America, and Australia to provide funding, material resources, and logistical support for a nationalist revolution.
   In an effort to exacerbate Anglo-American tensions, American Fenians attempted several unsuccessful invasions of Canada. Fenian violence peaked in 1867, with an insurrection on March 5–6, followed in December by a terrorist bombing of Clerkenwell Prison in London. Although nominally existent through the early 1880s, ultraviolent factions supplanted the Fenian organization, but the name continued in usage among Anglophiles for decades as a pejorative label for Irish nationalists.
   FURTHER READING:
    Brown, T. N. Irish-American Nationalism. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1966;
    Morton, W. L. The Critical Years: The Union of British North America, 1857-1873. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964.
   JONATHAN GANTT

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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