JOHN MITCHEL (1815-75) was born in Dungiven, Co. Derry, the son of a Presbyterian minister. He qualified as a solicitor, joined Young Ireland and was later a Fenian. He was transported to Van Diemen's Land in 1848, escaped and travelled to America, where he worked as a journalist, championing the southern states in the civil war. He was the central ideologue of nineteenth-century Irish separatism; shortly before his death he was elected MP for Tipperary. Patrick Maume is a researcher with the Dictionary of Irish Biography
Mitchel's account of the Repeal campaign, the Famine and the 1848 Rising, which originally appeared in Mitchel's Tennessee-based newspaper, The Southern Citizen, in 1858. Mitchel was a significant and controversial figure. Last Conquest, originally written as a riposte to American Nativist hostility to Famine immigrants, is well known in Famine debates for its claim that the Famine was a deliberate act of genocide by the British government.
Note on the Text
Introduction by Patrick Maume
THE LAST CONQUEST OF IRELAND (PERHAPS)
'Repeal Year' (1843)
'The Repeal Year' still
Determi nation of the Enemy
O'Connell in Prison
Approach of the Famine, in 1845
[Thomas] Davis, his influence, aim and labours
Duties of Government
Loss of the Irish crops
"Belief of Famine"
Death of O'Connell
Lord Clarendon, Viceroy
Dublin during the Famine
The 'United Irishman' newspaper
Rage of the British Press
Juries in Ireland
Triumph of the Enemy
Arrest of O'Brien
Consummation of the 'Conquest'
- from The Nation (Dublin), 15 May 1858.
"It set the template for popular attitudes to this catastrophic event and for the intellectual and academic debate on the subject to this day."
"this account of the O'Connell Repeal campaign and the famine years, up to Mitchel's ‘trial' and transportation to Van Dieman's Land in 1848, is the best I have read. It deserves a wide readership."
"these somewhat obscure writings reveal themselves as something of a profound critique not just of Ireland but also of the very idea of Irish society ... even in the strangest of terrains we can suddenly come across gems and when we do we can put them on the shelves and know that they will always be there for us."
"The reprinting of the Last Conquest at last provides an accessible edition of a work which is foundational for historiographical debates over the Famine."
Irish Studies Review
14 (4) 2006
"University College Dublin Press has now published over thirty ‘Classics of Irish History'. These contemporary accounts by well known personalities of historical events and attitudes have an immediacy that conventional histories do not have. Introductions by modern historians provide additional historical background and, with hindsight, objectivity."
"In the historiography of the Great Famine Mitchel’s Last Conquest is ubiquitous – frequently cited, rarely read in its entirety. The book is usually credited with playing a crucial role in establishing the genocidal interpretation of the famine, particularly in Irish-American circles. To be sure this reputation has merit; Mitchel’s pen drips with poison in the most famous passages.
"Mitchel’s work offer[s] fascinating partisan portraits of Europe’s first great populist leader. Subsequent generations of nationalists managed to craft and deploy a useful popular memory of the Great Liberator, but th[is] work remind[s] us that O’Connell could be remembered rather differently.
"Scholars of nineteenth-century Irish and Irish-American politics should reacquaint themselves with these classics, part of a long running and immensely useful series from University College Dublin Press.
"Patrick Maume has edited and written the introductions for no less than nine of the books in this series, lending them his breadth of knowledge and keen analysis that have made him one of the most learned and intellectually generous young scholars in the field."
Irish Literary Supplement