Alternative Ascendancies: Anglo-Irish Identities in the Nineteenth Century

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The common perception of the Anglo-Irish, or the Protestant Ascendancy - the Anglophone, predominantly Church-of-Ireland, and essentially Britocentric aristocracy, gentry, and professional class, which played a dominant role in the social, economic, political, and cultural life of Ireland from the seventeenth to the early twentieth century - is of a community which, despite its privileged position in Irish society, was nonetheless, in consequence of its colonial roots and its isolation from and distrust of the country’s Catholic majority, paradoxically always a community in decline, passively clinging to the memories of the past and unable to play a constructive role in the formation of the cultural identity of a modern, independent Ireland. The paper takes an issue with this interpretation of the contribution of the Ascendancy to Irish culture, particularly in the nineteenth century; taking the examples of three Romantic and Victorian Ascendancy writers, Lady Morgan, Sir Samuel Ferguson, and George Moore, it argues that their vision of Ireland was much more open-minded, inclusive, and progressive than the popular myths of the Ascendancy, such as in particular the tradition of Big House fiction, would lead most readers to believe.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolish Journal of English Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 23 Aug 2019



  • Anglo-Irish
  • Protestant Ascendancy
  • Ireland
  • nineteenth century
  • identity
  • literature

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