Ribbon Societies in Nineteenth-Century Ireland and Its Diaspora

BookRibbon Societies in Nineteenth-Century Ireland and Its Diaspora

Ribbon Societies in Nineteenth-Century Ireland and Its Diaspora

The Persistence of Tradition

Reappraisals in Irish History, 12


August 31st, 2018



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This is the first full-length study of Irish Ribbonism. It traces the development of Ribbonism from its origins in the Defender movement of the 1790s until the latter part of the century when the remnants of the Ribbon tradition found solace in the quasi-constitutional affinities of the Ancient Order of Hibernians. Placing Ribbonism firmly within Ireland’s long tradition of collective action and protest, this book shows that, owing to its diversity and adaptability, it shared similarities, but also stood apart from, the many rural redresser groups of the period and showed remarkable longevity not matched by its contemporaries. The book describes the wider context of Catholic struggles for improved standing, explores traditions and networks for association, and it describes external impressions. Drawing on rich archives in the form of state surveillance records, ‘show trial’ proceedings and press reportage, the book shows that Ribbonism was a sophisticated and durable underground network drawing together various strands of the rural and urban Catholic populace in Ireland and Britain. Ribbon Societies in Nineteenth-Century Ireland and Its Diaspora is a fascinating study that demonstrates Ribbonism operated more widely than previous studies have revealed.


'An important contribution to the corpus of scholarship on secret societies, violence and politics in nineteenth-century Ireland.'
Jay R. Roszman, Irish Historical Studies
'This is an excellent study, meticulously researched and lucidly written. The considerable detail adds to the interest and value of the work by opening up avenues for further research into this elusive and yet very real world of Irish subversives transnationally in the nineteenth century.'
Maura Cronin, Studia Hibernica

'A thorough excavation of not just the perceptions of Ribbonism but also the workings of the “official mind” in Dublin Castle during the first few decades of the nineteenth century.'
John O’Donovan, Irish Studies Review

'Hughes and MacRaild’s study on Ribbonism is to be commended for recalibrating our gaze towards these too often neglected decades, and years, and the lower class voices which filled them.'
Kerron Ó Luain, Dublin Review of Books

'An outstanding work of scholarship, one that is authoritative, substantial and carefully constructed...The work makes a substantial contribution to our knowledge and understanding of Irish secret societies, specifically Ribbonism, and to a whole range of characters and forces associated with such bodies... Stylish and engaging, Ribbon Societies in Nineteenth‐Century Ireland and its Diaspora is strongly recommended.'
Laurence Geary, History: The Journal of the Historical Association


Author Information

Kyle Hughes is Lecturer in British History at Ulster University. Donald MacRaild is Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Exchange at London Metropolitan University.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Introduction: Defining and Refining Ribbonism9
1. Out of Defenderism: Ribbonism in the Early Nineteenth Century39
2. Ribbon Networks in the 1820s: A Revolutionary Moment72
3. Ribbonism, O’Connellism, and Catholicism in the 1820s and 1830s100
4. The Transnational World of Richard Jones, 1835–1842133
5. Catholic Collectivism at Home and Abroad during the Famine Period177
6. Ribbonmen in their Urban Communities during the 1850s201
7. From Ribbonism to Hibernianism in the Post-Famine Diaspora234
8. Ribbonmen, Fenians, and Hibernians: Clashes and Convergences from the 1870s271
Conclusion: Ribbonism, 'An Accretion of Mythical Subject-Matter'311