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Ireland in the Age of Revolution - HIS00033H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Catriona Kennedy
  • Credit value: 40 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

Eighteenth-century Ireland was the site of an uneasy peace. The plantations and wars of the seventeenth century had seen the transfer of land and power to an Anglo-Irish Protestant minority, while the dispossessed Catholic majority endured under an oppressive penal code. If an uneasy peace prevailed for much of the century, it would culminate in the brutality and bloodshed of the 1798 rebellion. Yet the preceding decades had been characterised by a certain optimism. Over the course of the eighteenth century the embattled Irish Protestant community increasingly came to identify as Irish and to champion Enlightenment ideas. Though many Irish Catholics continued to profess loyalty to the Stuart Pretender there would be no Jacobite rebellion in Ireland. Emerging from this background of Irish Protestant Patriotism and greater toleration for Catholics, the Society of United Irishmen was founded in Belfast and Dublin in 1791. Inspired by the French Revolution the movement campaigned for radical political reform and ultimately the creation of an independent, non-sectarian Irish republic. They would begin the decade as highly effective political polemicists, they would end it as armed revolutionaries.

This module will provide a detailed introduction to the contested history of eighteenth-century Ireland, focusing in particular on its final decades. Drawing on a rich array of primary sources – parliamentary speeches, political pamphlets, poetry, diaries and memoirs – we will explore a range of issues and questions. We will engage with well-established debates in Irish history and study more recent approaches and perspectives, including gender, race and memory.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23 to Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to in depth study of a specific historical topic using primary and secondary material;
  • To enable students to explore the topic through discussion and writing; and
  • To enable students to evaluate and analyse primary sources.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Grasp key themes, issues and debates relevant to the topic being studied;
  • Have acquired knowledge and understanding about that topic;
  • Be able to comment on and analyse original sources;
  • Be able to relate the primary and secondary material to one another; and
  • Have acquired skills and confidence in close reading and discussion of texts and debates.

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1 of the autumn term. Students prepare for and participate in fifteen three-hour seminars. These take place in weeks 2-5 and 7-9 of the autumn term and weeks 2-5 and 7-10 of the spring term. Both the autumn and spring terms include a reading week for final year students and so there will be no teaching in week 6. There will also be a two hour revision session in the summer term. One-to-one meetings will also be held to discuss the assessed essay.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

Autumn Term

  1. The Protestant nation

  2. Rhetoric of the Protestant nation

  3. Hidden Ireland? Catholics under the penal laws

  4. Voices from the Hidden Ireland

  5. The Burke-Paine debate and the impact of the French Revolution

  6. Colonial outsider? Theobald Wolfe Tone

  7. United Irish ideology 1: republicanism and nationalism

Spring Term

  1. United Irish ideology 2: social radicalism and politicisation

  2. Gender, race and slavery

  3. Defenders and Defenderism

  4. “Croppies lie down”: the Orange order and counter-revolutionary loyalism

  5. Reconstructing the rebellion 1

  6. Reconstructing the rebellion 2

  7. Remembering the rebellion: 1798-1848

  8. Remembering the rebellion: 1848-1998


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 50
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Open Exam - Ireland in the Age of Revolution
8 hours 50

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment, students will be given the opportunity to do two practice gobbets and then are required to write a 2,000-word procedural essay relating to the themes and issues of the module in either the autumn or spring term.

For summative assessment, students complete a 4,000-word essay which utilises an analysis of primary source materials to explore a theme or topic relating to the module, due in week 5 of the summer term.

They then take a 24-hour online examination for summative assessment in the summer term assessment period comprising: one essay question relating to themes and issues, but showing an awareness of the pertinent sources that underpin these AND one ‘gobbet’ question (where students attempt two gobbets from a slate of eight).

The essay and exam are weighted equally at 50% each.


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 50
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Open Exam - Ireland in the Age of Revolution
8 hours 50

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their discussion groups and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural work with their tutor (or module convenor) during student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Dunne, Tom. Rebellion: memoir, memory and 1798. 2nd ed., Dublin: Lilliput, 2010.

McBride, Ian. Eighteenth-Century Ireland: The Isle of Slaves. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 2009.

Whelan, Kevin. The Tree of Liberty: radicalism, Catholicism and the construction of Irish identity, 1760-1830. Cork: Cork U.P., 1996.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.