Was pre-Famine and Famine Ireland a violent society? The dominant view among a range of commentators at the time, and in the work of many historians since, is that violence was both prevalent and pervasive in the social and cultural life of the country. This book explores the validity of this perspective through the study of homicide and what it reveals about wider experiences of violence in the country at that time. The book provides a quantitative and contextual analysis of homicide in pre-Famine and Famine Ireland. It explores the relationship between particular and prominent causes of conflict – personal, familial, economic and sectarian – and the use of lethal violence to deal with such conflicts. Throughout the book, the Irish experience is placed within a comparative framework and there is also an exploration of what the history of violence in Ireland might reveal about the wider history of interpersonal violence in Europe and beyond. The aim throughout is to challenge the view of nineteenth-century Ireland as a violent society and to offer a more complex and nuanced assessment of the part played by violence in Irish life.
'His book serves as an invaluable resource for historians interested in violence in historical societies, as well as a useful corrective to a flawed characterization of pre-Famine Ireland.'
Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Volume 45, Number 3
'In straddling the family, the personal, the agrarian and the sectarian, he has successfully activated a much-needed and more inclusive discussion in a clear and confident manner. As I have indicated earlier, more than once, the author suggests further possible avenues of investigation. This book provides those who may wish to explore those avenues with an excellent starting point.'
Reviews in History
‘…This is an important and compelling addition to the historiography of European violence. The book effectively combines quantitative and qualitative methods, carefully disaggregates violence into the main contexts in which it arose, and offers a strong comparative angle that enhances the values of this specific case study. In the clarity and thoughtfulness of his argumentation and writing, McMahon has set a very high standard for the history of violence.’
John Carter Wood, Crime, History &
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