Ulster liberalism, 1778–1876


Gerald Hall

Hardback €49.50
Catalogue Price: €55.00
ISBN: 978-1-84682-202-5
April 2011. 272pp.

‘Gerald Hall offers a detailed study of Ulster liberalism, which he labels “The Middle Path” … The middle path, according to Hall, was a precarious coalition between Presbyterians of Ulster-Scots descent, long recognised as the flag-bearers of progress, and Catholic liberals. His examination of the interactions between these two parties is path-breaking', Guy Beiner, EHR (April 2014).

‘This book is a valuable addition to the history of late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Ireland. It is particularly useful in that it sheds important new light on the history of Irish Liberalism … [it is] also extremely useful for its careful delineation of the attempts made by Ulster Liberals to carve out a political space for themselves which was outside both Nationalist and Unionist paradigms. Hall is also frequently acute about the difficulties which Ulster Liberals faced in achieving this objective … By tracing some of the ideological differences that existed among Ulster Liberals, the author has also opened valuable new perspectives … this is an extremely important book, which makes a major contribution to our understanding of nineteenth-century Irish politics …by restoring the ideological dimension to the study of Ulster Liberalism, the book also serves to broaden the debate on the history of nineteenth-century Ireland as a whole', Andrew Shields, Irish Economic and Social History (2013).

‘Beautifully produced ... this book is a major addition to the scholarly literature and to the debate on a less well-known, but nonetheless significant, alternative tradition in Irish politics', Eugenio Biagini, Journal of Liberal History (Summer 2013).

‘Gerald R. Hall moves beyond narrow studies of nationalism and unionism to concentrate on the interactions between Catholics and Protestants in a liberal-middle ground … the depth of Hall’s research in newspapers, pamphlets and archival records, presented in a thorough analysis, results in a dense, detailed and ultimately compelling case … Hall has succeeded in providing a history of an earlier, different, dynamic outside the familiar framework of nationalism and unionism. He has raised ideas that invite further study, and his research in local history especially suggests possibilities for future work in this period. This book is a valuable contribution to our understanding of not just Ulster liberalism but Irish history', Anthony Daly, Journal of British Studies (April 2013).

‘Gerald R. Hall’s excellent book sits alongside the best anti-determinist scholarship of recent years and may be seen as part of nascent trend in Irish scholarship which follows JGA Pocock’s call “to learn to read and recognize the diverse idioms of political discourse”. Covering an unusually long period from the 1770s to the 1870s, he emphatically topples the oft-repeated assumption that Ulster liberalism expired in 1798, along with the dreams of the United Irishmen. What we are left with is a compelling picture of a resilient and diverse political creed, which maintained a prominent voice and an influential presence in the press, cultural and political world … This is an original and impressive book and will take its place alongside a growing and impressive body of literature on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century political culture in Ulster', John Bew, Eighteenth-Century Ireland (2011).

‘[This is] a particularly welcome addition to Irish political historiography. In this impressive first book, Hall seeks “to rescue the history of a political tradition in Ulster in which neither nationalism nor unionism was the foremost consideration” … Ulster Liberalism makes two significant contributions to the historiography. First, by examining what Hall, following Habermas, refers to as the “public sphere”, rather than focusing more narrowly on parliamentary election results and elite politics, it persuasively demonstrates the long-term vitality of liberalism in the North. Second, the study of town commissions points to an aspect of local government in Ireland that historians have neglected. Hall has devoted considerable attention to the Ulster commissions, and provides detailed case studies throughout the book … he has provided the indispensable foundation on which all subsequent scholars will build', Douglas Kanter, H-Net reviews (August 2011).

‘The liberal tradition in Ulster is now almost forgotten and generally viewed as a victim of the extremism which entered politics with the late 19th-century home rule crises. As Hall argues, at one time it was a potent force in the province’s politics and acted as a progressive counterweight to the conservative landed interest. He traces its origins to the volunteer movement of the 1770s and follows its progress against the background of the battle for Catholic emancipation, the growth of public opinion and the political influences of the churches. He explains how the liberal movement was squeezed out by the change in politics but argues that it is a mistake to underestimate its influence or achievements', Books Ireland (April 2011).