178 pages | 5 B/W Illus.
Early nineteenth-century Ireland witnessed widespread and prolonged rural unrest, as groups of labourers and smallholders formed secret societies demanding land reform, fair rents, the protection of wages and an end to tithes. One of the most active of these groups - the Rockites - waged a vigorous and sustained campaign of arson, intimidation and houghing (maiming of animals) across the southern half of Ireland during the 1820s, quickly attracting the attention of the authorities in both Ireland and Britain. Combining analyses of local and economic concerns with wider national political dimensions, this book offers an in-depth and alternative interpretation of the Rockites. Attaching particular importance to the political dimensions of the Rockites, Katsuta demonstrates how their political mindset was created by local circumstances. Styling themselves descendants of the United Irishmen, Rockites drew on the memories of the bitter political struggles in Cork during the 1790s, as well as current political events such as Daniel O’Connell’s mass mobilisation to oppose the Catholic relief bill in 1821. As well as situating the Rockites within the Irish context, the book also offers insights into how British politicians dealt with Ireland in the early years of the Union. The Rockite disturbances prompted the Tory government to adopt a new course that proved less a remedy to problems in Ireland than as a response to events within parliament. In turn Rockites became a useful tool for Whigs and radicals in Westminster to blame the Tories for the misgovernment of Ireland, revealing how the Irish question in the early nineteenth-century UK was regarded first and foremost as a parliamentary issue.
1. Rockites as Agrarian Disturbers
2. Rockite Organisation and Activities
3. The Political World of the Rockites
4. Rockites and the Government
Conclusion: The Rockites in Context
We like to forget that agriculture is one of the core human activities. In historic societies most people lived in the countryside: a high, if falling proportion of the population were engaged in the production and processing of foodstuffs. The possession of land was a key form of wealth: it brought not only income from tenants but prestige, access to a rural lifestyle and often political power. Nor could government ever be disinterested in the countryside, whether to maintain urban food supply, as a source of taxation, or to maintain social peace. Increasingly it managed every aspect of the countryside. Agriculture itself and the social relations within the countryside were in constant flux as farmers reacted to new or changing opportunities, and landlords sought to maintain or increase their incomes. Moreover, urban attitudes to - and representation of - the landscape and its inhabitants were constantly shifting.
These questions of competition and change, production, power and perception are the primary themes of the series. It looks at change and competition in the countryside: social relations within it and between urban and rural societies. The series offers a forum for the publication of the best work on all of these issues, straddling the economic, social and cultural, concentrating on the rural history of Britain and Ireland, Europe and its colonial empires, and North America over the past millennium.