Popular perceptions of the resident magistrates have been shaped by the portrayal of Major Yeates in the Somerville and Ross Irish RM stories but little is known of the Major's real-life counterparts. They make only fleeting appearances in the historiography, in which academic interest has focused chiefly on the part played by the resident magistracy at times of crisis. This has reinforced the contemporary nationalist view of the RMs as part of the 'foreign garrison', integral to a system of colonial oppression whereby alien rule was imposed upon the people. This new book on the resident magistrates challenges this view, examining the variety of response to British dominance and the extent of Irish participation in governing institutions.
The history of the resident magistracy is traced from its inception in the 1830s to its fate in both parts of the island after partition in the 1920s. Particular attention is given to the period 1890-1922 and, in conclusion, four biographical studies add depth and give further insights into the experiences of the Irish RMs in general as narrated in earlier chapters.
Dr Penny Bonsall is a graduate of the University of Warwick and has published articles and papers on various aspects of social history.