Carla King is a Lecturer in Modern History at St Patrick's College, Drumcondra. She has published various works relating to Davitt, including Michael Davitt: Collected Writings, 1868-1906 (2001); Michael Davitt, Jottings in Solitary (2003); Lives of Victorian Political Figures, Part II, vol. 4: Michael Davitt (2007); and co-edited with W. J. Mc Cormack, John Devoy's Michael Davitt: From the Gaelic American (2008). She has also published articles on Davitt in scholarly and popular journals.
Son of evicted Mayo tenants, Fenian treason-felony prisoner Michael Davitt (1846-1906) was to become the driving force behind the Irish National Land League, an organisation that mobilised Irish farmers in the first mass challenge to landlordism in Ireland. As such he made a crucial contribution to the shaping of modern Ireland. In the aftermath of the Kilmainham Treaty he emerged as a major figure in Radicalism and in the British and Irish labour movements, served as a Home Rule MP at Westminster, and was an influential foreign correspondent, writer and activist. This short, revised biography will aim to outline the scope of Davitt's interests and achievements, setting them in the context of his time.
Chronology of Davitt's Life and Times
- Background and Early Years, 1846-77
- The New Departure and the Land League, 1878-82
- After the Land League, 1882-91. 4
- The Parliamentarian, 1891-9
- The Final Years, 1900-6
“Bookworm [History Ireland] is always on the lookout for publications that appeal to a particular type of reader: Leaving Cert and A-level student, languid undergrad, or general readers whose enthusiasm for history is not matched by the necessary leisure time to plough through academic monographs … A case in point was the ‘Life and Times’ series published by the Historical Association of Ireland in the 1990s, which aimed ‘to place the lives of leading figures in Irish history against the background of new research’. The good news is that the series is back, with the same mission statement, this time published by UCD Press.”
“Michael Davitt is one of the icons of Irish nationalism. His harsh experiences in his early years, and later as a ‘convicted felon’, contributed to the aura surrounding him … Carla King provides a delightful vignette of Davitt’s happy married life with his wife, the Irish-American, Mary Yore. She also includes a most useful detailed chronology of the life and times of Michael Davitt.”
J. Anthony Gaughan
The Irish Catholic
"This short biography by Carla King, who has written extensively about Davitt elsewhere, is in the Historical Association of Ireland’s commendable new Life and Times series. One of Davitt’s major achievements was his leadership of the Land League, where he managed 'to weld together the disparate social elements behind the movement'. Apart from the land struggle, his other main preoccupation was opposition to British rule in Ireland. Here, he turned away from his early physical-force Fenianism in favour of non-violent political protest (King describes his nationalism as 'non-sectarian and inclusive'). A skilled journalist and writer, he was more radical than most of his fellow nationalists, favouring land nationalisation, cooperation between the labour movements in Britain and Ireland, and votes for women."
September 5, 2009
"In the last decades of the 19th century Davitt was probably second only to Parnell in the international movement … He went on to become a figure of renown in international radical and labour circles … King gives us a succinct account of Davitt’s rise from humble beginnings, his part in Irish political and social movements, and finally his later career outside Ireland."
‘Michael Davitt was the first Irish political leader to move from armed struggle to Fenianism to the democratic, civil disobedience and unrest politics of the Land League and parliamentary representation. As a Fenian prisoner, he thought up the Land League, a political new departure which would make common cause with Parnell and the Home Rule party. … His experience of horrific, health-breaking nineteenth-century prison conditions led him to be a lifelong, advocate of prison reform, worldwide. He and Parnell had a mutually advantageous relationship. … Together they thwarted early exponents of a US-UK special relationship, when they blocked the Anglo-American arbitration treaty in 1897 and 1904. He supported the Liberals until Gladstone fell from power. Davitt then became one of the founders and theorists of the British Labour Party; his writings respected by both Marx and Engels. A supporter of women’s suffrage, derided as a feminist, he worked closely with Parnell’s sisters, Fanny and Anna, in forming the Women’s Land League. … He was still campaigning for non-denominational education when he died in 1906 … Contemporary readers will be absorbed by this short and comprehensive history. It is a tribute to King’s narrative skills that it is not merely a list or litany of Davitt’s life and times.'