Since the Middle Ages, and especially since the late sixteenth century, Ireland was an object of English rule, colonial plantation, and settlement by English and Scottish Protestants against the resistance of an Irish population that had been Catholic since the fifth century. With the Act of Union passed by the government of William Pitt the Younger in 1801, Ireland was incorporated into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and subsequently required to bear part of the burden of Britain’s serial wars against Napoleon Bonaparte.
   Until 1829, Catholics were barred from serving in parliament. This constitutional exclusion laid a political foundation for Irish nationalism, and despite Catholic Emancipation, the continuing ill treatment of the rural population by Protestant landlords gave it deep social and cultural roots. The Irish Famine of the 1840s further deepened Irish resentment, so that the Home Rule movement led by Charles Parnell starting in the 1860s enjoyed broad support, and more violent manifestations of Irish nationalism eventually prompted the Coercion Act from the British Parliament in 1881.
   In 1902, the owner of the weekly newspaper, United Irishman, founded a political organization dedicated to Ireland’s complete independence, Sinn Fein, “Ourselves Alone.” Protestants in the northern province of Ulster began to campaign to defend the Union, fearing that in a sovereign Ireland they would be a small and hated minority. William Gladstone ’s successive attempts at Home Rule failed, and Irish nationalist stepped up agitation during World War I, climaxing in the Easter Rebellion of 1916 by the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
   See also <>.
    Foster, R. F. Modern Ireland, 1600–1972. New York: Penguin, 1989;
    Norman, E. R. A History of Modern Ireland. Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1971.

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

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