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A Provisional Dictator
James Stephens and the Fenian Movement

Marta Ramon (author)
Paperback / softback,
Publication date:
10th May 2007

Author Biography

Marta Ramon holds a PhD from the University of Oviedo, in Spain, and is currently an IRCHSS Government of Ireland Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of History, National University of Ireland, Maynooth.


"A Provisional Dictator" is a political biography of James Stephens, the founder of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. Marta Ramon traces Stephens' political and revolutionary career from his involvement in Young Ireland's insurrection in 1848 until his death in Dublin on 29 March 1901. James Stephens was born in Kilkenny in obscure circumstances in 1825. In 1848, he joined William Smith O'Brien's revolutionary attempt and took part in the skirmish at the Widow McCormack's house near Ballingarry. After the failure he escaped to France, where he worked as a translator and tutor of English. In 1856 he returned to Ireland, and in 1858 he founded the Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Irish branch of the Fenian movement. However, Stephens' continued reluctance to order the long-expected rising led to his overthrow in December 1866. After his deposition he exiled himself in France and until the early 1880s made several unsuccessful attempts to regain power. In 1891, he was finally allowed to return to Dublin, where he died on 29 March 1901. James Stephens is one of the most fascinating personalities in Irish nationalist history.Arrogant, dictatorial, manipulative and unscrupulous about the means to attain his ends, but intensely charismatic and mesmerisingly persuasive, he lacked essential qualities as a revolutionary leader, but can be ranked among the best political organisers of the nineteenth century. "A Provisional Dictator" follows Stephens' revolutionary career and the course of the IRB under his leadership, explaining the tactical and political motives behind his most controversial decisions.