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James H. Murphy discusses Ireland’s Czar on Talking History,
Newstalk, 9 November 2014 (52 mins in)

Ireland's Czar
Gladstonian Government and the Lord Lieutenancies of the Red Earl Spencer, 1868-86

James H. Murphy (author)
Publication date:
15th May 2014

Author Biography

James H. Murphy, Professor of English at DePaul University, Chicago, is a leading scholar of nineteenth-century Ireland, working in political history and the history of fiction. Recent books include Irish Novelists and the Victorian Age (2011) and, as editor, The Oxford History of the Irish Book, Vol. 4, The Irish Book in English, 1800-91 (2011).


The fifth Earl Spencer was lord lieutenant of Ireland twice (1868-71, 1882-5). It was a problematic office, combing both symbolic, constitutional aspects with an administrative role that could embroil it in politics. On the first occasion Spencer managed to save the office from political controversy. On the second, during the politically turbulent 1880s, he was given an explicit mandate to act as a governing lord lieutenant. This effectively produced the appearance of a bifurcated government with the Liberal government at Westminster able psychologically to distance itself from the Irish Executive under Spencer. Equally, the Irish Parliamentary Party, effected a bifurcated opposition. This work continues the argument of the author's 2001 book, Abject Loyalty: Nationalism and Monarch in Ireland during the Reign of Queen Victoria, that in nineteenth-century Ireland, political affinity with Britain was damaged by the sacrifice for short-term political ends of constitutional offices (such as the monarchy and lord lieutenancy) that were important for bolstering that affinity.This ground-breaking study, exploring the career intricacies of lord lieutenant Earl Spencer, sheds new light on an area of Irish History, as of yet, largely unexplored.