In mid-1796 the Irish government faced the threat of domestic insurrection and the likelihood of an invasion by the forces of revolutionary France. The spreading power of the United Irishmen was paralyzing the law and order system and threatening to overwhelm wavering, unorganized loyalists. The Irish Yeomanry, a voluntary, part-time, local defence force, was formed in September 1796 in response to this deepening crisis.
The Irish Yeomanry was a large organization, having over 80,000 members at its height, yet it has been largely neglected by historians. Using a wide range of primary sources this book reconstructs its organizational system and provides a membership profile in social and religious terms. The Yeomanry's origins are located in the tradition of Protestant self-defence stretching back to the plantations. Its linkages with the old Irish Volunteers and the recently formed Orange Order are investigated to shed new light on the critical years leading up to the 1798 rebellion.
Allan Blackstock is a graduate of Queen's University, Belfast and works at the Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University, Belfast.