Jim Smyth is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. His first book, The Men of No Property: Irish Radicals and Popular Politics in the Late Eighteenth Century (Macmillan, 1992), explores a subject and period to which, in this short study of Henry Joy McCracken, the author now returns.
The story of the life of Henry Joy McCracken is fused with the history and environs of eighteenth-century Belfast. Of stout Presbyterian stock, McCracken's family were the founders of the Belfast Newsletter, working also as textile merchants, rope-makers and philanthropists. Where the McCrackens and Joys exemplified the economic dynamism and vibrant civic culture of eighteenth-century Belfast, their son in sharp contrast would come to exemplify Irish republican values as a founding member of the Society of the United Irishmen and leader in the Battle of Antrim in 1798. Immersed in the political turbulence and polarisation of the 1790s, this monograph by Jim Smyth, the latest addition to the Life and Times New Series, charts the life and legacy of one of the more socially radical of the United Irishmen leadership. Tracing the force of this revolutionary's presence throughout his youth, his time as a rebel, his term as a prisoner and his ultimate end at the gallows in Cornmarket in 1798, this book honours the endurance of McCracken's story and cements its importance in the popular imagination of the city from which McCracken hailed.
'Beyond Smyth’s local knowledge, his prose is unburdened by scholarly jargon, yet he embeds incisive comments and sharp reflections on the
interpretation of facts and the construction of history.'
Irish Historical Studies, May 2021