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.
The Birth of the IRB
The Irish People
The 'Year Of Action'
The End of a Dictatorship
"The author says that she has tried 'to move away from the usual emphasis on his dictatorial ways or his propagandistic manipulation of the task, in order to show him under a different and complimentary light: that of a leader determined to carry out his revolutionary aims in spite of everything and everyone, and the perpetual aspiring intellectual who managed to achieve his one great success as the founder and organiser of the IRB'. She has succeeded admirably in doing this and the A Provisional Dictator is now the definitive account on its subject."
Old Kilkenny Review
"The name of Stephens in well known. His book gives us the man."
"Marta Ramon's study is a revision and in many cases a correction of previous approaches to Stephens ... [her] range of vision is wide ... a thoughtful and well-documented book ... the combination of dramatic vigour and authoritative consultation of original documents is to be praised ... a great achievement."
Irish Studies in Spain
"Marta Ramon has produced a fine scholarly study that joins the select body of work on the Fenians that can be described as indispensable."
Irish Studies Review, Vol 16 No 2
"Marta Ramon’s biography of James Stephens, the ‘provisional dictator’ of the Fenian movement from its founding in 1858 until his overthrow in 1866, is a fine addition to the new historiography of Fenianism, Irish republicanism, and ‘advanced’ nationalism. It is thoroughly researched, notably drawing on unpublished scholarly work, the Davitt Papers (TCD) and the Fenian Briefs (NAI); the writing elegantly combines narrative and analysis; and it clearly supersedes all previous biographical attempts to situate Stephens in Irish history.
Finally, the book is beautifully presented by UCD Press, which has produced a pristine text, furnishing further evidence that it is Ireland’s finest academic publisher, producing books that adhere to the highest international standards."
Irish Historical Studies Vol XXXVI No 141
"[The book] is balanced and thoughtful throughout, with evidence weighed judiciously and verdicts delivered carefully. Moreover, it is a masterpiece of clarity, particularly where the tangled web of American relationships is concerned. The author has scoured the archives and memoirs, and made good use of the fast-growing body of theses on Fenianism, but the details and analysis have been moulded into a seamless whole, often with real elegance. There are many nicely turned sentences and well-executed set pieces, and the story is kept moving forward at a good pace. Anyone with an interest in Irish history would enjoy reading it, and students in school or university will likely treasure it. UCD Press must also be congratulated for giving it the handsome treatment it deserves, from cover to paper and typeface.
James Stephens does emerge from this account as deserving of our interest and empathy. … Does he really deserve to be ‘almost universally disliked’? It is to Marta Ramon’s credit that one finishes her book thinking that this is a life worthy of further (including fictional) exploration."
Peter Hart – Canada Research Chair in Irish Studies
Memorial University of Newfoundland
History Ireland Nov/Dec 2008
"Exhaustively researched in Ireland and the US, this readable book largely supersedes Desmond Ryan’s 1967 study The Fenian Chief and amends the works of such authorities on the IRB and Fenianism as R. V. Comerford, William D’Arcy, and Leon O’Broin. Ramon makes sophisticated use of scattered details in correspondence, memoirs, police reports, and obscure newspapers to reconstruct Stephens’ elusive activities in Ireland, Europe, and North America. Highly recommended [to] all Irish studies collections."
D. M. Cregier, University of Prince Edward Island
December 2008 Vol. 46 No. 4