The Social Structures and Cultural Politics of the Irish Civil War

Doctoral Dissertation


This study explores the neglected social and cultural dimensions of the Irish Civil War (1922åÐ23), a brief, bitter conflict waged between rival nationalists on the eve of Irish independence. It argues that though the thorny political dilemma provoked by the controversial Anglo-Irish Treaty was the initial cause of the disastrous rupture in the Sinn FÌ©in movement, the political differences between the pro- and anti-Treaty camps reflected, drew upon, and became increasingly entwined with their divergent social outlooks, mentalities and material interests. Indeed, it is only when these latter issues and areas of friction are taken into consideration that the Civil War’s long and bitter legacy for Irish society can begin to be understood. Drawing on a wide range of primary sources, a chapter demonstrates that pro- and anti-Treaty discourses åÐ particularly in terms of how the two sides perceived each other åÐ were freighted with powerful class and social status resonances. These fraught “politics of respectability” were shaped both by long term social cleavages and by the country’s awkward transition from revolutionary upheaval to post-revolutionary ÌÄå¢Ì¢åâåÂÌÜåÏnormality.‘ That latter process is further explored in several chapters on the Civil War’s aftermath (roughly mid-1923 to the late 1920s), a period when the anti-Treaty losers of the conflict faced political persecution and economic victimization by the Free State Government and its supporters. Many thousands of republican activists left the country in this period, generally as self-described political “exiles.” In the first in depth analysis of this mass exodus, a chapter on the forgotten “wild geese” of the Irish Civil War concludes that those who left ultimately did so because of the revolution’s failure to bring about significant social change. Considered together, the themes and issues explored in this dissertation reveal that the causes, course, and outcomes of the “conflict that formed the [Irish] state” were conditioned as much by social and cultural forces as by political ones.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-07232009-115352

Author Gavin Maxwell Foster
Advisor Jim Smyth
Contributor Luke Gibbons, Committee Member
Contributor Bill Kissane, Committee Member
Contributor Jim Smyth, Committee Chair
Contributor John McGreevy, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline History
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2009-06-10

Submission Date 2009-07-23
  • United States of America

  • Anglo-Irish Treaty

  • Irish Free State

  • respectability

  • the Irish Revolution

  • nationalism

  • class

  • IRA

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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