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"Race was the defining element in nineteenth century perceptions of the Irish." How far is this judgement borne out by the evidence?

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Introduction

John Roderick (763 words) Race was the defining element in nineteenth century perceptions of the Irish "how far is this judgement borne out by the documents?" These sources are exceptionally revealing about nineteenth century perceptions of the Irish. Many of the sources reveal the extent of colonial racism; some of the sources however are pro-Irish. Source A is an extract written by the chairman of the Irish Famine Curriculum Committee, James Mullin, in 1998. From interpreting the author it is clear that the source will be anti- British. It clearly states that race was the defining element in nineteenth century perceptions of the Irish. Mullin says that the British looked on the Irish with "a self conscious sense of Saxon superiority at what they considered to be the childlike and inferior, but dangerous Celtic race." ...read more.

Middle

The source also shows that it was not only the British who held racial prejudices against the Irish. At the time the source was written Irish immigration to the USA was rife. Now the previously enslaved Afro-American Negro race was free and slowly climbing the social ladder a new victim was needed to take their place. The blacks would no longer accept the lowest rate jobs. Irish immigrants were struggling for survival and were forced to accept these jobs. This is a good example of how race was such a defining element in the fight for survival. Source C is an extract from a pamphlet written by an English economist in 1834. It is a stereotypical view of the Irish referring to their "insurrectionary spirit" and "rude efforts at obtaining a sort of savage self established justice". ...read more.

Conclusion

It refers to the Irish as a "creature manifestly between the gorilla and the Negro". This source bears similarities to source A, in relation to social Darwinism. Source F is a document written by the historian Lord Acton in 1862. It is an ultimately racist source with Acton discussing social Darwinism and racial progression. Depicting the Irish as the "materials of history not the impulse". He believed that more developed races should control the retrogressive races with the aim of advancing them. This source can be related to Mullin's views on colonial racism. Whether or not race was perceived as good or bad it was the factor that people were influenced by. This is easily linked to the view of colonial racism and social Darwinism, especially borne out in source A. There is sufficient evidence from these sources that race was the defining element in nineteenth century perceptions of the Irish. 1 ...read more.

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