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W.E.H. Lecky

Historian & Politician 1838 - 1903

By: Donal McCartney

Publication Date: January 1993


W.E.H. Lecky: Historian & Politician 1838 – 1903 by Donal McCartney

This is the long-awaited biography of the great humanist historian of eighteenth-century Ireland. Carlow landlord, writer and political commentator, Lecky achieved fame in his lifetime as the author of monumental works of Irish, English and European history, and saw himself as heir to the great tradition of colonial nationalism vested in Swift, Burke and Grattan. A classic Victorian intellectual, he championed rationalism, loathed bigotry and was an admirer of Daniel O’Connell. In later life he became a ‘revisionist’ of his own earlier work, opposing Parnell and adopting a position of liberal unionism. He represented his alma mater Trinity College, Dublin, from 1895 to his death, campaigning vigorously against Home Rule.

This critical account of Lecky’s life, writings and ideals opens up a neglected area of nineteenth-century Irish and continental historiography, and documents the parts he played in the unfolding drama of Anglo-Irish relations and the emergence of Irish nationalism. It makes an invaluable contribution to the history of ideas, and deepens our understanding of the nature of culture and politics in modern Ireland.

‘Overdue and welcome.‘ – Roy Foster, TLS

‘A distinguished study, most interestingly … this impressive scholarly work tells us much about the nuances of nineteenth century Irish questions.’ – Books Ireland

‘Distinguished by it humane approach to the greatest luminary of both nationalist and Unionist traditions.’George Byrne, Irish Studies Review

‘An important and immensely readable biography of this neglected patriot.’ – Hilary Pratt, Irish Independent

‘A magnificent achievement … a book to be rejoiced in.’–  Irish Times


DONAL MCCARTNEY is emeritus professor of modern Irish history at UCD and editor of The World of Daniel O’Connell (Dublin 1980).



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Weight 1 kg
Dimensions 160 × 245 mm
Publication Date

January 1993


Hardback, 282pp