Timothy Murtagh, "Irish Artisans and Radical Politics, 1776-1820: Apprenticeship to Revolution" (Liverpool UP, 2022)


Tim Murtagh completed his PhD at Trinity College Dublin. He was a historical consultant on the Dublin Tenement Museum at No. 14 Henrietta Street and a book based on this research will be appearing later next year. Since April 2020, Tim has been an Archival Research Fellow with the Beyond 2022 project, an international research project working to create a virtual reconstruction of the Public Record Office of Ireland, which was destroyed in the opening engagement of the Irish Civil War in 1922.

In this interview he discusses his new book Irish Artisans and Radical Politics, 1776-1820: Apprenticeship to Revolution (Liverpool UP, 2022), a study of working-class life and politics in the major urban centers of Ireland in the years before and after the United Irishman Rebellion of 1798.

Irish Artisans and Radical Politics is a comparative study of the political activities of workers in three Irish cities: Dublin, Belfast and Cork. It investigates how Ireland’s journeymen and apprentices engaged in campaigns for political reform, as well as in revolutionary conspiracies, during the years 1776 to 1820. This book marks the first ever attempt to analyse the role of Irish workers in the creation of eighteenth-century republicanism, representing the careful distillation of nearly a decade of research on the topic. It argues that Irish craftsmen truly did serve an ‘apprenticeship to revolution’. In the literal sense, the experience of the workshop provided artisans with a set of traditions which shaped how new revolutionary doctrines were received. But generations of Irish workers also served a figurative apprenticeship to successive political movements: the campaigns of Irish ‘Patriot’ MPs, the Volunteering movement of the 1770s, and the revolutionary campaigns of the United Irishmen. The book explores the role of urban workers within the 1798 Irish Rebellion and Robert Emmet’s 1803 rising and, adopting a transnational framework, places the actions of these Irish artisans within the context of British radicalism and the creation of an industrial working class.

Aidan Beatty is a historian at the Frederick Honors College of the University of Pittsburgh

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Aidan Beatty

Aidan Beatty teaches in the history department at Carnegie Mellon University.

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