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Week 10: Depicting the Irish

Ireland was subject to many of the same processes of ‘othering’ as Britain’s further colonies. In this session, we’ll look at how Irish bodies were depicted in British caricatures, reflecting contemporary prejudice directed at both the Irish in their own territory, and as migrant labourers. The image of the Irish as degenerate, and prone to higher levels of drunkenness and insanity, fed into debates around Irish politics, and the particularly their ability to self-govern. As a consequence, there has been some discussion about whether anti-Irish prejudice was ‘racial’, reflecting a division between ‘Saxons’ and ‘Celts’, or whether it was ground in the political, behavioural, and religious differences that shaped English and Irish identity during this period.


Discussion Questions:

What strereotypes were particularly associated with the Irish in the nineteenth century, and what evidence was harnessed to support these depictions?

What role did visual culture play in perpetuating anti-Irish prejudice?

Was anti-Irish prejudice focused more on biological or behavioural factors?


Required Readings:

Focus on Curtis/Gilley Debate (read Curtis first, then Gilley's response):

**L.Perry Curtis Jr., Apes and Angels: The Irishman in Victorian Caricature, Rev. Ed (Washington, 1997), ‘Ch. IV: Simianizing the Irish Celt,’ pp.29-57 [extracts]

**Sheridan Gilley, ‘English Attitudes to the Irish in England, 1780-1900,’ in Colin Holmes (ed.) Immigrants and Minorities in British Society (London, 1978), pp.81-110 [extracts]


*Patrick Brantlinger, Taming Cannibals: Race and the Victorians (Ithaca, 2011), ‘Ch. 6: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Irish,’ pp.136-156. [e-book]

*Catherine Cox, Hilary Marland and Sarah York, ‘Emaciated, Exhausted and Excited: The Bodies and Minds of the Irish in Nineteenth-Century Lancashire Asylums,’ Journal of Social History 46 (2012), 500-524. [e-journal]

*Paul B. Rich, 'Social Darwinism, Anthropology, and English Perspectives of the Irish, 1867-1900,' History of European Ideas 19 (1994), 777-785. [e-journal]

Further Readings:

L. P. Curtis, Jr., Anglo-Saxons and Celts: A Study of Anti-Irish Prejudice in Victorian England (Bridgeport, 1968), ‘Ch. V: Ango-Saxonist Ethnology,’ pp. 66-73

Michael de Nie, The Eternal Paddy: Irish Identity and the British Press (Madison, 2004)

R.F. Foster, Paddy and Mr. Punch: Connections in English and Irish History (London, 1993)

Peter Gray, ‘Punch and the Great Famine,’ History Ireland 1 (1993), 26-33. [e-journal]

Joseph A. Kestner, ‘The Colonized in the Colonies: Representation of Celts in Victorian Battle Paintings,’ in Shearer West (ed.), The Victorians and Race (Aldershot, 1996), pp.112-127.

Richard Ned Lebow, White Britain and Black Ireland: The Influence of Stereotypes on Colonial Policy (Philadelphia, 1976), esp. ‘Ch. 4: Images of Ireland—Shillelaghs and Smoky Hovels,’ pp. 35-70.

Edward G. Lengel, The Irish Through British Eyes: Perceptions of Ireland in the Famine Era (Westport, 2002), especially ‘Ch. 1: Race, Gender, Class and the Historiography of English Perceptions of the Irish,’ pp.1-18

Anne-Catherine Lobo, ‘Irishness and the Body: The Presence of the Body in the Debates on Poverty in the Early Nineteenth Century,’ in James Byrne, Padraig Kirwan and Michael O’Sullivan (eds.), Affecting Irishness: Negociating Cultural Identity Within and Beyond the Nation (Oxford, 2009), pp. 57-68.

Amy E. Martin, ‘ “Becoming a Race Apart”: Representing Irish Racial Difference and the British Working Class in Victorian Critiques of Capitalism,’ in Terrence McDonough (ed.), Was Ireland a Colony? Economics, Politics and Culture in Nineteenth-Century Ireland (Dublin, 2005) p..186-211

D. G. Paz, ‘Anti-Catholicism, Anti-Irish Stereotyping, and Anti-Celtic Racism in Mid-Victorian Working Class Periodicals,’ Albion 18 (1986), 606-616. [e-journal]

Hazel Waters, ‘The Great Famine and the Rise of Anti-Irish Racism,’ Race and Class 37 (1995), 95-108 [e-journal]