Who were "the Men of the West"? Folk historiographies and the reconstruction of democratic histories

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Abstract

In 1798, a French expeditionary force under General Humbert landed in County Mayo to support the United Irishmen's rebellion. Both the French and their local allies were eventually defeated by British and Yeomanry troops, but the memory of the events and personalities of the Year of the French was still strong when the Irish Folklore Commission started its collecting mission in the 1930s. This article suggests that the folk narratives of these events can be collated into an alternative, and more democratic, version of the rebellion. Popular interest rested not with the French general (except as a scapegoat for defeat) but with local men (and women) of less elevated status. The common people of Ireland were, in their own narratives, less directed from above and more agents in their own right. These are less a corrective to the supposedly authoritative histories written by professionals and diffused through the media and education system, than a coherent, alternative historiography.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-221
Number of pages21
JournalFolklore
Volume115
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2004

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