Arson in modern Ireland

History @ Newcastle


Friday 29 August 2014,

Cultural Collections, Auchmuty Library 10 – 11am.
Followed by morning tea.

Arson in modern Ireland:
Fire and protest since 1800

Dr Gemma Clark, University of NSW

The act of willfully setting fire to property with the intent to cause damage is not only a serious crime. In Ireland, the UK and elsewhere, arson is also a historically recognized protest tool. My postdoctoral project examines the range of social, political and military activists who have, since 1800, utilized fire—and the threat of one’s property being burned—to enforce compliance with collective demands and communicate grievances. This paper presents my research so far, exploring the role played by arson in nineteenth-century rural unrest, and incendiarism as a feature of urban and sectarian conflict, particularly in Northern Ireland. I argue that the persistence of—typically non-lethal—arson as a protest tool, in Ireland, is explained by the distinctively Irish propensity to property damage, as well as the relative scarcity of brutality in modern Ireland, compared with mainland Europe and the USA.

Gemma Clark studied History at the Queen’s College, Oxford, completing her doctorate in 2011. In October 2012, she took up her current position as postdoctoral research fellow at the Global Irish Studies Centre, UNSW Australia. Her research concerns violence and protest in modern Ireland. Cambridge University Press recently published her first monograph, Everyday Violence in the Irish Civil War.


One thought on “Arson in modern Ireland

  1. Pingback: History @ Newcastle Research Seminar Series | UoN Cultural Collections

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