Decentring the Irish Land War: Women, politics and the private sphere

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Laird, Heather
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Manchester University Press
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In historical accounts of Ireland in which the political is defined purely in terms of that which directly affects the state, and historical change is believed to be powered by these narrowly defined political forces, women, who were for the most part excluded from formal male political culture, tend to be assigned a marginal role. State-centred histories, in other words, are invariably patriarchal histories. One of the means employed to counteract this marginalization is to seek out examples of ‘exceptional’ women who did operate in the arena of the state, or close to it, and focus attention on them. While scholarship of this kind reminds us of the impressive contribution that women like Constance Markievicz made to Irish society, it fails to challenge the values and structures of the historiography it is supplementing. In this chapter, I demonstrate, with reference to women and agrarian unrest in the 1880s land agitation, that an historical framework which decentres familiar notions of power and the political is the most effective way to bring women in from the margins of Irish history. Relocating the ‘front’ of the Land War from the public sphere of organized politics to the civil domain of everyday life reveals the centrality of women to this episode in Irish history.
Irish Land War , Rent Strike , Anti-Eviction Agitation , Land League Huts , Boycotting , Feminist Historiography , Subaltern , Ladies' Land League
Laird, H. (2013) 'Decentring the Irish Land War: Women, Politics and the Private Sphere', in Campbell, F. and Varley, T. (eds)., Land Questions in Modern Ireland. Manchester: Manchester University Press, pp. 175-193. isbn: 9780719078804
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