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
Pages (from-to)55-77
Number of pages23
JournalPolish Journal of English Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 16 Dec 2019


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


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