Leadership, the middle-classes and Ulster unionism since the late nineteenth century

Neil C. Fleming

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


It is generally observed by scholars and commentators that the so-called middle class took control of Ulster unionism in the early twentieth century — and abandoned it, and politics generally, from the outbreak of political violence in the late 1960s.1 Put like this, it is an intriguing juxtaposition, but it is not appropriate, for reasons this essay attempts to outline. Such a task, of course, is fraught with pitfalls. Theorists have long questioned how historians apply ‘class’ as an analytical tool and not many scholars have given serious attention to Ulster unionism. If these are considerable obstacles, then they are not impassable. First, the assumptions on which this essay is based are drawn from the modernisation model of social change. The rationale for adopting this approach is provided by Joseph Lee, who, in applying the term to his own work, hoped that it ‘may prove immune to the parochial preoccupations implicit in equally elusive and more emotive concepts’.2 Second, the modernisation model, after Max Weber, argues that social change leads to political change, enabling this essay to focus on class and leadership. Third, this aim allows the essay to utilise existing scholarship on Ulster unionism, most of which concentrates on those who led the movement.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolitics, Society and the Middle Class in Modern Ireland
EditorsFintan Lane
Place of PublicationBasingstoke
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9780230008267
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


  • politics
  • society
  • middle classes
  • Irish history
  • unionism


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