Charles Stewart Parnell on

A guide to material relating to Charles Stewart Parnell on Ged Martin's website.

"Charles Stewart Parnell: Economics and Politics of a Building Trade Entrepreneur" attempts a general interpretation of Parnell's career, particularly challenging the view that he is an "enigma". It argues that his political activities should be understood in the context of his economic interests. While he was a landowner in the sense that he inherited a County Wicklow estate, it is unlikely that he received any net income from Avondale, since its rents were swallowed up by overheads, mortgage interest and annuities to family members. Rather, he developed sawmills and quarries, activities which gave him a key interest in the prosperity of his customers, Ireland's tenant farmers.

"Did Parnell swear the IRB oath? A sceptical review"   In recent years, some historians have given tentative credence to a claim that Parnell secretly joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood after his release from Kilmainham in 1882. My "sceptical review" amounts to an outright rejection of this evidence. At a practical level, it cannot be reconciled either with Parnell's known movements after his release or with the arrangements for the admission of readers to the Library of Trinity College, where the oath-taking ceremony was (implausibly) alleged to have taken place. Membership of a secret society was entirely against Parnell's political principles. Adherence to a secret society after his release from Kilmainham, when his ascendancy was its height, made no sense. Secret membership of a secret society (as claimed) was also pointless. Joining the IRB was not a gesture, such as Parnell's patronage of the Gaelic Athletic Association, but enlistment in a secret army with a promise of absolute obedience to its leadership.

"How to pronounce Parnell and say O'Shea"  Parnell and Kitty O'Shay are joined in one of the great tragic love stories of modern times. Most scholars now acknowledge that their surnames are generally mispronounced, but their corrections have made little impact upon wider usage. This Note cites some of the contemporary evidence for the correct versions.

"Why did Parnell avoid Ottawa in 1880?"  Parnell's North American tour of 1879-80 was cut short by the unexpected dissolution of the British Parliament, which made it necessary for him to return from Montreal to lead the election campaign in Ireland. Yet it is clear that he did not intend to visit Ottawa. Surely the emerging leader of the movement for Home Rule in Ireland should have made a fact-finding visit to the capital of the Dominion of Canada, the largest example of devolved self-government within the British Empire?

"Magdalene College Cambridge in Mid-Victorian Times" is an extended investigation of the college that Parnell attended, at various times, between 1865 and 1869. It seeks to re-create aspects of his life there, and to explore the experiences of other students from Ireland.

"Charles Stewart Parnell at Cambridge: new evidence (1992)"  The reorganisation of the Magdalene College Archives in the early 1990s made it possible to trace Parnell's time at university in more detail. This resulted in the surprising discovery that he had been absent from Cambridge for almost two years between 1865 and 1869, almost certainly as a result of the financial problems of the Avondale estate.

"The Cambridge academic record of Charles Stewart Parnell"  The impression that Parnell had apparently spent four years at Cambridge but left without taking a degree had fostered the assumption that he was neither intelligent nor diligent as an undergraduate, a negative impression that encouraged the view that he had drifted into politics as a dilettante activity. In fact, he was at least an average student, with some evidence both that he had an enquiring mind and was committed to his studies.

"The departure of Charles Stewart Parnell from Cambridge, 1869"  Parnell left Cambridge in May 1869 after losing a court case for assault brought against him by a local man after a street fight. The Fellows of Magdalene showed their displeasure by rusticating him, i.e. excluding him from the University, but only for the very short period of two weeks. He did not return to complete his studies, and later alleged that he was a victim of anti-Irish prejudice.

"Edward Charles Hamilton: the person Parnell punched"  Edward Charles Hamilton, Parnell's antagonist in the fight, emerged out of the darkness late one night and returned to oblivion after successfully suing him for assault. He can now be seen as a self-important and aggressive person whose confrontational approach no doubt irritated Parnell, although this hardly excused him for knocking down a man who was almost certainly ten inches (25 cms) shorter. Hamilton eventually came to a bad end, serving three prison sentences. At some phases, and not just in May 1869, his life was oddly interwoven with that of Parnell.

"Recollections and reconstructions: accounts of the departure of Charles Stewart Parnell from Cambridge University, 1869"  After Parnell's death, the street fight and the court case which led to Parnell's departure from Cambridge gradually became surrounded by legend.  This essay considers various accounts, either in the form of hearsay reminiscences or as exercises in biography, to illustrate the challenges facing historians in assessing such material.

"Parnell at Cambridge: the shreds and patches of a 1914 lecture"  During his lifetime and (even more) after his premature death, Parnell became a legendary figure, around whose mysterious figure various stories collected. In 1914, an eccentric Irishman, Carolan McQuaid, delivered a lecture on Parnell's time at the University in which he drew upon various tales and traditions. Most were obviously without foundation, but some may have contained a grain of truth.

"Charles Stewart Parnell, Cambridge University and the fable of Daisy"  In 1905, Parnell's sister Emily claimed that he had been expelled from Cambridge after the suicide of a young woman whom he had allegedly seduced. It took the rest of the twentieth century to eradicate this nonsense from Parnell biography.

Some Parnell contemporaries

"From Butt to Balfour: Edward King-Harman (1838-1888)"   Edward King-Harman was a Conservative Home Ruler who was ruined by the 1881 Land Act. Although easily caricatured, his political trajectory – from loyal follower of Isaac Butt to despised lieutenant of Arthur Balfour, in just seven years – arguably makes him a tragic figure.

"The fourth Earl of Carnarvon (1831-1890): towards a reconsideration"  Although a Conservative, the Earl of Carnarvon drew upon his enthusiasm for colonial self-government to work towards some form of devolution for Ireland. His career is overdue for re-evaluation.

Material exploring William Ewart Gladstone listed on "Gladstone on".

I hope to add further material on Parnell, especially relating to his career in the 1880s.