Revolutionary Imperialist

William Smith O'Brien 1803-1864

By: Richard Davis

Publication Date: October 1998


Revolutionary Imperialist: William Smith O’Brien 1803-1864 by Richard Davis

Published in Australia by: Crossing Press, P.O. Box 1137, Darlinghurst, N.S.W. 2010.

By 1848 all peaceful means of giving Ireland an equal place within the British Empire seemed exhausted and William Smith O’Brien found himself a reluctant revolutionary leader. An aristocratic Protestant landlord, O’Brien nevertheless commanded unrivalled respect amonst all Irish classes. This scion of an ancient dynasty and tireless campaigner for Catholic Emancipation and Repeal of the Union had advocated a host of improving laws and policies in a parliamentary and political career spanning more than twenty years. Disilllusioned by parliament, dismayed at Ireland’s imminent disintegration during the Great Famine, and pressured by Young Irelanders of the Irish Confederation, O’Brien strove to reunite with fellow-nationalists loyal to the memory of Daniel O’Connell. Revolutionary Imperialist is the first full biography of the leader of the 1848 Rebellion, painting a convincing picture of O’Brien’s private nature and public personality. Davis provides an in-depth anlysis of his long and varied political career and argues that O’Brien was a far more consistent political thinker and active nationalist than previously understood.

‘This is the definitive biography of William Smith O’Brien. Davis does justice to O’Brien’s complex political philosophy and rounded identity.’ Brendan O Cathaoir, The Irish Times


RICHARD DAVIS, born in India and educated at Trinity College Dublin, is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Tasmania, Australia. He is the editor of ‘To Solitude Consigned’: The Tasmanian Journal of William Smith O’Brien,1849-1853 (1994) and has previously published books on Young Ireland and Tasmania, Arthur Griffith and Sinn Féinn, the Tasmanian Labour Party, Irish influences in New Zealand and the ideological differences between paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland.



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Weight 1 kg
Dimensions 150 × 230 mm
Publication Date

October 1998


Paperback, 400pp