An Irish Revolution Without A Revolution


  • Aidan Beatty Concordia University



There is a conventional view among Irish historians that a revolution occurred in that country between the passing of the Third Home Rule Bill of 1912 and the end of the Civil War in 1923.  The violence of those years, the collapse in support for the Irish Parliamentary Party (IPP), the meteoric rise to power of Sinn Féin, a new sense of meritocracy, a greater sense of democracy and a widespread radicalism; all are seen as elements of a major change in Irish politics and life, a ‘Revolution.’  Drawing on Gramsci's notion of a “revolution without a revolution”, this paper seeks to understand the events in Ireland of 1912-23, not as a sudden rupture with the past but as the culmination of a much longer period of (often British-backed) capitalist development in post-Famine Ireland. This paper argues that Irish nationalist politics in the decades before 1912 is better understood via categories such as class, gender, capitalism and the pervasive power of the British state.  As such, as well as pursuing a reassessment of the project of Irish historical development and state-building, this paper also seeks a reassessment of the project of (an equally statist) Irish historiography.


Author Biography

Aidan Beatty, Concordia University

Aidan Beatty holds a doctorate in international history from the University of Chicago.  His first book, Masculinity and Power in Irish Nationalism, 1884-1938 will be published this summer by Palgrave-Macmillan, as part of their Genders and Sexualities in History series. He is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies and a Scholar-in-Residence at the School of Canadian Irish Studies, at Concordia University in Montreal.


Allen, Theodore. 2012. The Invention of the White Race, Volume One: Racial Oppression and Social Control. London: Verso, 2nd Edition.

Anderson, Perry. 2013. The Indian Ideology. London: Verso

Braudel, Fernand.1981. Civilization and Capitalism, Volume One: The Structures of Everyday Life – The Limits of the Possible. New York: Harper & Row

Breen, Dan. 1924. My Fight for Irish Freedom. Dublin: Talbot Press.

Breen, Dan. 1966. Untitled Essay, National Library of Ireland MS 41929/1-3, Dan Breen Papers, 23 May

Brown, Terence. 1985. Ireland: A Social and Cultural History, 1922-85. London: Fontana, 2nd Edition

Cairns, David and Shaun Richards. 1988. Writing Ireland: Colonialism, Nationalism and Culture. Manchester: Manchester University Press

“Capital and Labour’. 1913. Irish Freedom, November 1913

Campbell, Fergus. 2005. Land and Revolution: Nationalist Politics in the West of Ireland, 1891-1921. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Coakley, Maurice. 2012. Ireland in the World Order: A History of Uneven Development. London: Pluto Press

Connolly, James. 1919. Labour in Irish History. New York: Donnelly Press

“Connolly’s Murderers Attack “Watchword.”’ 1919. The Watchword of Labour, Vol. No. 9, 22 November, 1919

Cronin, Mike. 2000. “Golden Dreams, Harsh Realities: Economics and Informal Empire in the Irish Free State.’ In: Cronin, M., Regan J. eds. Ireland: The Politics of Independence. London: Palgrave-MacMillan

Crotty, Raymond. 1986. Ireland in Crisis: A Study in Capitalist Colonial Undevelopment. Dingle: Brandon

De Valera, Eamon. 1917. Peace and Prosperity or Red Ruin, de Valera handbill, National Library of Ireland LOP116, Item 63

De Valera, Eamon. 1918. Eamonn De Valera states his case, undated Sinn Féin pamphlet. Reprinted from the Christian Science Monitor, 15 May 1918

De Valera, Eamon. 1922. Letter to Mary MacSwiney, 11 September, University College Dublin Archives P150/657, de Valera Papers

Dooley, Terence. 2004. “The Land for the People’: The Land Question in Independent Ireland. Dublin: UCD Press

Dunphy, Richard. 1995 The Making of Fianna Fáil Power in Ireland, 1923-1948. Oxford: Clarendon Press

English, Richard. 1994. Radicals and the Republic: Socialist Republicanism in the Irish Free State, 1925-1937. Oxford: Clarendon Press

Fitzpatrick, David. 1998. Politics and Irish Life, 1913-1921: Provincial Experiences of War and Revolution. Cork: Cork University Press, 2nd Edition

Gershoni, Israel and Jim, Jankowski. 1986. Egypt, Islam, and the Arabs: The Search for Egyptian Nationhood, 1900-1930. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Gramsci, Antonio. 1999 “The Problem of Political Leadership in the Formation and Development of the Modern State in Italy’. In: David Forgacs. ed. The Antonio Gramsci Reader: Selected Writings, 1916-1935. London: Lawrence & Wishart

Griffith, Arthur. 1922. Arguments for the Treaty, Military Archives, Bureau of Military History CD 131/8/21

Hart, Peter. 2002. “Definition: Defining the Irish Revolution.’ In: Joost Augusteijn, ed. The Irish Revolution, 1913-1923. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan

Howe, Stephen. 2000. Ireland and Empire: Colonial Legacies in Irish History and Culture. Oxford, Oxford University Press

Hutchinson, John. 1996. “Irish Nationalism’. In: Boyce, D.G., O’Day, A. eds. The Making of Modern Irish History: Revisionism and the Revisionist Controversy. New York: Routledge

Kane, Anne. 2011. Constructing Irish National Identity: Discourse and Ritual During the Land War, 1879-1882. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan

Kostick, Conor. 2009. Revolution in Ireland: Popular Militancy, 1917-1923. Cork: Cork University Press, 2nd Edition

Laffan, Michael. 1985. “Labour Must Wait: Ireland’s Conservative Revolution.’ In: P.J. Corish, ed. Radicals, Rebels, and Establishments. Belfast: Apple Tree Press

Laffan, Michael. 1999. The Resurrection of Ireland: The Sinn Féin Party, 1916-1923. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Lee, J.J. 1989. Ireland, 1912-1985: Politics and Society. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

Markievicz, Constance. 1925. James Connolly’s Policy and Catholic Doctrine. N.P.

Maume, Patrick. 1999. The Long Gestation: Irish Nationalist Life, 1891-1918. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan

McCabe, Conor, 2011. Sins of the Father: Tracing the Decisions that Shaped the Irish Economy. Dublin: The History Press

McMahon, Timothy. 2010. ““The Land for the People”: The Irish Revolution as a Revolution of Rising Expectations.’ In: De Nie, M., Farrell, S. eds. Power and Popular Culture in Modern Ireland: Essays in Honour of James S. Donnelly, Jr. Dublin: Irish Academic Press

Morton, Adam David. 2003. “Structural Change and Neoliberalism in Mexico: “Passive Revolution” in the Global Political Economy’. Third World Quarterly 24 (4), pp. 631-653

Nairn, Tom. 1997. Faces of Nationalism: Janus Revisited. London: Verso

O’Ceileachar, S. 1921. The Labour Problem. Dublin: Cumann Léigheachtaí an Phobhail

O’Donnell, Peadar. 1963. There Will Be Another Day. Dublin: Dolmen Press

O’Hearn, Denis. 2001. The Atlantic Economy: Britain, the US and Ireland. Manchester: Manchester University Press

O’Hegarty, P.S. 1924. Victory of Sinn Féin: How and It Won It, And How It Used It. Dublin: Talbot Press

O’Higgins, Kevin. 1922. Mexican Politics, article, University College Dublin Archives P197/137, Kevin O’Higgins Papers

O’Malley, Ernie. 1936. On Another Man’s Wounds. London, Rich & Cowan

Pašeta, Senia. 1999. Before the Revolution: Nationalism, Social Change and Ireland’s Catholic Elite. Cork: Cork University Press

Regan, John. 1999. The Irish Counter-Revolution, 1921-1936: Treatyite Politics and Settlement in Independent Ireland. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan

Regan, John. 2013. Myth and the Irish State. Dublin: Irish Academic Press

Riley, Dylan, and Manali Desai. 2007. “The Passive Revolutionary Route to the Modern World: Italy and India in Comparative Perspective.’ Comparative Studies in Society and History, 49 (4), pp.815-847

Sasson, Donald. 2010. One Hundred Years of Socialism: The West European Left in the Twentieth Century. London: I.B. Tauris, Revised Edition

Sinn Féin. 1918. General Election: Manifesto to the Irish People. Military Archives, Bureau of Military History CD, 95/4/1

Sinn Féin. 1920. Claims on Property: Sinn Fein Manifesto, Handbill. National Library of Ireland MS 33912 (11), Piaras Béaslaí Papers,

Smith, Jackie and Rachel Kutz-Flamenbaum. 2010. “Prisoners of our Concepts: Liberating the Study of Social Movements.’ In: Simon Teune. ed. The Transnational Condition: Protest Dynamics in an Entangled Europe. New York: Berghahn Books

Smith, Jackie and Dawn Wiest. 2012. Social Movements in the World-System: The Politics of Crisis and Transformation. New York: Russell Sage

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1991. “The Construction of Peoplehood: Racism, Nationalism, Ethnicity.’ In: Etienne Balibar & Immanuel Wallerstein. Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities. London: Verso

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2004. World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press

Wallerstein, Immanuel.. 2011a. The Modern World-System I: Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World Economy in the Sixteenth Century. Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 2nd Edition

Wallerstein, Immanuel. 2011b. The Modern World-System III: The Second Era of Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy. Berkeley CA: University of California Press, 2nd Edition




How to Cite

Beatty, A. (2016). An Irish Revolution Without A Revolution. Journal of World-Systems Research, 22(1), 54–76.



Special Issue: Ireland in the World-System