Date of Award

Summer 2005

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Maura Hametz

Committee Member

Jane Merritt

Committee Member

Douglas Greene

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H47 F37 2005


From 1880 to 1923, Irish nationalists created and sustained an independent cultural identity shaped by external and internal forces. British political cartoons reveal key external cultural perceptions of the Irish, while Irish nationalist writings endorse internal concepts of character and project political aims. Irish nationalists present an uninterrupted internal identity in pursuit of autonomy. Images published in Punch, or the London Charivari, provide external factors of identity that evolve from exaggerated threat to trivial concern while the nationalist political demands they represent escalate.

Identity is the product of complex interaction and compromise between external and internal definitions. Individuals and groups self-identify through processes of internal definition. Internal definitions emerge through an internal voice yet with the expectation of an audience. Irish nationalist leaders projected their internal identity in their writings, speeches, and activities. External definition assigns factors of identity to another group of people; it cannot be a solitary act because it requires interaction. Punch, representative of British media sources, imposed external characteristics and value on Irish issues.

Political cartoons convey messages more quickly and successfully than editorials to less literate readers while highlighting underlying societal assumptions on which the opinions expressed in the cartoon are formed. Presented over a period of forty years, the Irish issues and characters in the images progress from threatening to inconsequential— sketches from the end of this period even seem to bear a modicum of respect. The images also develop from exaggerated caricatures to moderate sketches over this period—a subconscious reinforcement of cultural stereotypes.

Certain themes of Irish character are constant in nationalist works from this forty-year period, while the political aims they outline evolve greatly. These speeches and writings provide markers of an internal identity that attempted to refute elements of identity imposed by the majority culture. Irish nationalist goals evolved from demands for land control to an Irish Parliament within the empire to cultural and political liberation from 1880 to 1923. Irish nationalists emerged from this period with a tentative Free State and an independent cultural identity with which they developed economic, political, and cultural distinctiveness.


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