Defying the IRA?

Intimidation, coercion, and communities during the Irish Revolution

by Brian Hughes

This book examines the grass-roots relationship between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the civilian population during the Irish Revolution. It is primarily concerned with the attempts of the militant revolutionaries to discourage, stifle, and punish dissent among the local populations in which they operated, and the actions or inactions by which dissent was expressed or implied. Focusing on the period of guerilla war against British rule from c. 1917 to 1922, it uncovers the acts of ‘everyday’ violence, threat, and harm that characterized much of the revolutionary activity of this period.

Moving away from the ambushes and assassinations that have dominated much of the discourse on the revolution, Defying the IRA? explores low-level violent and non-violent agitation in the Irish town or parish. The opening chapter treats the IRA’s challenge to the British state through the campaign against servants of the Crown – policemen, magistrates, civil servants, and others – and IRA participation in local government and the republican counter-state. The book then explores the nature of civilian defiance and IRA punishment in communities across the island before turning its attention specifically to the year that followed the ‘Truce’ of July 1921.

This study argues that civilians rarely operated at either extreme of a spectrum of support but, rather, in a large and fluid middle ground. Behaviour was rooted in local circumstances, and influenced by local fears, suspicions, and rivalries. IRA punishment was similarly dictated by community conditions and usually suited to the nature of the perceived defiance. Overall, violence and intimidation in Ireland was persistent, but, by some contemporary standards, relatively restrained.

What do reviewers say about this work?

'Intellectually serious, impressively researched, and very well written, this book will significantly enhance our understanding of the grassroots dynamics of the Irish Revolution.' - Tim Wilson

'Defying the IRA? will certainly entice established readers of the period, and, at the same time, presents frameworks for further research. Moreover, its synthesis of established works on revolutionary violence by Augusteijn, Dolan, Fitzpatrick, and Townshend suggests that Hughes has presented a new starting point for the next generation of Irish scholars.' - Justin Dolan Stover, History: Reviews of New Books

'This book will be a very useful exemplar for students of the revolution who should now consider this new angle in the many studies of the War of Independence, especially at the local and community level, that are likely to be produced to coincide with the centenary of Irish independence.' - Marie Coleman, Journal of Social History

'Hughes makes excellent use of both the Irish and British state record... he represents a vast number of stories of people whose allegiances, loyalties or histories cannot be neatly summarised or easily dismissed.' - Deaglan Page, Belfast Books

'Brian Hughes's formidable study succeeds in explaining "everyday" Irish civilian life in the deliberate form of historical enquiry ... This timely volume convinces of the need to discover questions as answers in archives. Its combined weight of archival evidence, and commitment to empirical enquiry, mark this book as an invaluable modern-day document to the traditions of Irish historical studies.' - Darragh Gannon, Irish Literary Supplement

'The book is meticulously researched, but is particularly effective when combining papers from the Bureau of Military History and the records of the Irish Grants Committee. Collating these Irish and British materials has enabled Hughes to expose the complex ways in which ordinary citizens, caught in the cross-fire of revolution, interpreted the course of events around them, as well as their own loyalties. ... Hughes has established a compelling new dimension within the apparently well-worn story of Ireland's war of independence.' - Alvin Jackson, The English Historical Review

'This is a first class piece of work and will be indispensable to those interested in the history of ordinary people in Ireland during the war of independence as well as university level students of Irish and British history.' - Declan O' Reilly, British Journal of Military History

About the digital edition of "Defying the IRA?"

This digital edition includes the complete published text of Brian Hughes' monograph, Defying the IRA? : Intimidation, coercion, and communities during the Irish Revolution, including table of contents, introduction, six chapters, all tables and figures, conclusion, bibliography and index. It also includes, in the Resource Collections below, additional primary sources, previously unpublished scholarship and other resource materials that enhance the reading of this book.


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    Defying the IRA? Intimidation, coercion, and communities during the Irish Revolution
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    Liverpool University Press
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    This work has been made publicly available under a CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.
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    Reappraisals in Irish History
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