Ireland, Colonialism and the Unfinished Revolution

Beyond The Pale

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Ireland, Colonialism and the Unfinished Revolution

Robbie McVeigh and Bill Rolston



Colonialism is at the heart of making sense of Irish history and contemporary politics across the island of Ireland. In this exhaustive analysis, England’s oldest colony is considered in the context of the history of colonisation and anti-colonial politics throughout the world. In painstaking detail, McVeigh and Rolston chart the centuries leading to the Act of Union, the struggles for Irish independence and the legacies of partition from 1921. One hundred years later, the Union is in crisis and alternatives to partition are being seriously considered outside the republican tradition for the first time in generations. The conclusion is optimistic. In the words of Pádraig Pearse:

Anois ar theacht an tSamhraidh – now the summer is coming.


‘This book brilliantly analyzes the history and legacy of colonialism and resistance in Ireland and beyond. In this moment where the whole planet is in flux, this powerful account offers indispensable insights for us all.’

Barbara RansbyProfessor of Black Studies and History, University of Illinois, and author of Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First Century

‘Timely, vital and necessary, a most powerful and captivating account of the continuing pull of colonialism – and its dark, lingering legacies.’

Philippe Sands International Human Rights lawyer, and author of East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity.

‘With an 800 year history of harsh and often murderous foreign domination, Ireland provides ample evidence for the interplay of imperialism, colonialism and colonial state structure, along with race, class, and religion, topics explored here with subtlety and insight both in Ireland’s specific colonial experience and quest for decolonization, and in global history more generally. A very impressive contribution to understanding our world, how it arose, and why it must dramatically change.

Noam Chomsky Social critic and political activist, and author of Consequences of Capitalism: Manufacturing Discontent and Resistance

‘The election of Joe Biden as President of the United States reminds me of the old adage that Ireland is the only country in the world where English is spoken and the Irish don’t rule. Biden's term in office will focus minds on Ireland and its peace process. Why such a peace process was necessary, why it needs protection, and why the authors believe that ultimately Ireland's future depends on breaking the colonial link, is at the core of this audacious and fascinating book.’

Albie Sachs Anti-Apartheid activist and former judge on the Constitutional Court of South Africa, and author of The Soft Vengeance of a Freedom Fighter


480 pages


Section I: Situating Ireland within paradigms of colonialism and imperialism

1 Methodologies: Interpreting Ireland in order to change it
2 ‘Robbers of the World’: Colonialism and Imperialism: a genealogy
3 Anatomies of Death: The Colonisation of Ireland 1155-1801
4 Acts of Union: Ireland, England and Empire – 1801-1922

Section II: Carnivals of reaction: Partition and the emergence of the 26- and 6-county states

5 Southern Ireland 1922-73: From Republic to ‘White Dominion’
6 Southern Ireland 1973-2021: Europeanisation, ‘Leprechaun economics’ and the Price of Peace
7 ‘A Protestant State and A Protestant Parliament’: Northern Ireland 1920-72
8 Northern Ireland 1972-2020: Direct Rule, Peace, and the emergence of a ‘Good Relations’ State:

Section III: Situating Ireland within paradigms of anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism

9 ‘They make a wasteland and call it peace’: Anti-imperialism and Decolonisation – a genealogy
10 ‘Peoples Endure; Empires Perish’: Irish anti-colonialism and anti-imperialism
11 What is to be done?

Section IV: Coda: The Carnival is Over



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  • 4
    Book review

    Posted by John Metcalfe on 1st Sep 2021

    Scored it 4, as I’ve not read much of it yet. From what I have it looks excellent, so might end up a 5.