Crisis and Decline

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Receding imperialism usually leaves behind those who have for generations staunchly upheld its authority and flourished under its aegis-Germans in Bohemia, Swedes in Finland, Greeks in Asia Minor, Muslims in the Balkans. Among those abandoned adherents of a lost cause were the unionists in the south and west of Ireland'. So begins R.B. McDowell's preface to this lively, meticulously researched account of the fate of Irish unionists outside Ulster from the era of Parnell through the early years of the Irish Free State. McDowell details the efforts of a ruling minority to maintain the union between Britain and Ireland, and tells the story of what became of them during and after the Anglo-Irish war and the handing over of the twenty-six counties. The bastions of Southern unionism- Trinity College Dublin, The Irish Times- come under sympathetic scrutiny from a man who became intimately acquainted with the ex-unionist world while a student at Trinity in the 1930s, as chronicled in a colourful afterword. Crisis and Decline also records the testimony of ordinary unionists- farmers, shopkeepers, policemen, and others- who sought compensation for losses suffered during the 1920s. McDowell gives us a nuanced portrait of a distinctive social group, much mythologized in literature but hitherto neglected by historians, who clung steadfastly to a doomed vision of Ireland within the British Empire.
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336 printed pages
Original publication


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