Modern Ireland, 1939-1975

Module code: HS2331

Ireland in 1945 was a tale of two countries: part of Europe, yet a place apart. Irish political leaders could not ignore the fruits of the post-war settlement – prosperity, liberal social values, and the welfare state – and this tide inevitably washed upon Irish shores. Independence, achieved in 1922, and only formally in 1949, remained for many an experiment as much as a reality. The weakness of official political culture was more than outweighed by the enormous social and cultural power of the Catholic Church, as forcefully outlined in Paul Blanshard’s The Irish and Catholic power (1953). The Church controlled most schools, universities and hospitals, often stepping in to fill the holes in the patchwork quilt of the Irish ‘welfare state’. Yet by the early 1960s the Church’s power was in serious decline. 

This module offers a political history of Ireland during a period of enormous social and cultural change from 1945 to Ireland’s entry into the European Economic Community in 1973. We will use theoretical concepts of cultural hegemony, elite formation, discipline and governmentality to analyse the power of the Catholic Church in both high politics and everyday life, and we will look at case studies including women’s history, rural culture in the 1950s, and the control of town planning and the built environment in cities. We will also analyse the writings of dissidents and radicals that pushed against the political consensus of the time, and study the effects in Ireland of the outbreak of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland.