Accommodation, Conciliation and Cooperation: a Gladstonian Legacy

Neil C. Fleming, Alan O'Day

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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The period from the fall of Parnell through to the Edwardian era was once described as a ‘long gestation’. William Butler Yeats’ pithy phrase referred to the vacuum left by the fall and death of Charles Stewart Parnell, a romantic view certainly, and one that has not stood the test of historical scrutiny.1 William Ewart Gladstone’s legacy during this period, it is suggested here, is also worth re-examining. His legislative attempts at establishing Home Rule, of course, ended in failure, in the House of Commons in 1886, and in the House of Lords in 1893. But the motives behind Gladstone’s strenuous efforts to ‘pacify Ireland’ and thereby reconcile Irish Nationalists to the Union with Great Britain and to unite the Catholics and Protestants of Ireland in common endeavour did not die with his Home Rule bills. And although subsequent efforts ultimately met the same fate, they did so for different reasons. Historians have considered at length Gladstone’s efforts to pacify Ireland, and his attempt to reconcile its Catholic majority to the Union, as part of a tradition in British high politics, initiated by Sir Robert Peel and carried on after Gladstone in the guise of ‘constructive unionism’. Most scholars have treated Gladstone’s belief that Protestants and Catholics could unite to make Home Rule work with circumspection and have not linked the emergence in Ireland of ‘cooperation politics’ (as distinct from ‘co-operative politics’) at the turn of the twentieth century to his legacy.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGladstone and Ireland: Politics, Religion and Nationality in the Victorian Age
EditorsD. George Boyce, Alan O'Day
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd.
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9780230221949
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • Gladstone
  • Ireland
  • Irish history


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