HIS21120 Northern Ireland, 1920-2010: from partition to Paisley

Academic Year 2024/2025

This course will chart the history of Northern Ireland from its foundation through state building, war, civil rights, sectarian conflict, and the peace process. Relative to its size, Northern Ireland is arguably the most studied and analysed place on earth in the twentieth century. Partition is by no means a phenomenon unique to Ireland. Germany, India, Korea, and Sudan are among the most prominent examples of a phenomenon that has been a major component of the twentieth century world.

The Northern Irish troubles witnessed the deaths of 3,636 people between 1966 and 1999. The conflict has been a defining moment in the modern histories of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and Britain. In being a resolved conflict, the solution arrived at in 1998 has become a template for peace processes the world over.

1998 initiated a peace process rather than concluding a peace settlement. That peace has been at times unstable, fragile, and imperfect. This course will progress past the Good Friday Agreement, examining the history of near contemporary Northern Ireland to examine how power sharing, decommissioning, and cultural demobilisation have shaped a new polity, asking what changed and what stayed the same.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On successful completion of this course, students will have developed an ability to assess critically the social, political, and military history of Northern Ireland since its foundation. Students will have examined the history of partition, the lived experience of the second world war on a home front, the campaigns against the continuance of the Northern Irish state between 1945 and 1962, civil rights and the progress of Troubles from their inception to their conclusion.

Through in-class document analysis, students will examine the primary sources of Northern Ireland’s history.

For students wishing to further their understanding of conflict resolution, insurgency and counter-insurgency, sectarianism, and international/bi-lateral relations, this module will provide crucial new perspectives.

Indicative Module Content:

Lecture outline

Week 1: Introduction and overview

Week 2: State formation and boundary recognition

Week 3: The politics of interwar Northern Ireland

Week 4: War, Westminster, and Stormont

Week 5: Establishing the Welfare State, questioning partition

Week 6: The O’Neill Years

Week 7: From Civil Rights to Direct Rule

Week 8: Reading week

Week 9: Sunningdale and security: Northern Ireland in the 1970s

Week 10: Hunger, Thatcher, and Terror: Northern Ireland in the 1980s

Week 11: The 1990s: peace comes slowly

Week 12: After Good Friday: stability or democracy?

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module combines large-group and small-group teaching, through a weekly
lecture and seminar. Weekly lectures provide overviews of weekly topics, with focus
upon key historical trends, debates and events. Weekly seminars focus on small-group
active / task-based learning using both secondary and primary sources related to the
weekly topic covered in the lecture. Autonomous learning is nurtured through
required preparatory reading each week, and a formative and summative written
assignment. Key research, writing and citation skills are explicitly incorporated into
seminar work and are assessed and advanced from the formative to the summative
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Assignment(Including Essay): Midterm essay.
Students may choose from one question from a selection provided in the module handbook. Essays should be 1,500 words in length excluding bibliography and footnotes.
n/a Graded No


Exam (In-person): 2-hour final examination. This examination consists of two essay-type answers.
Students answer ONE question from Section A and ONE question from Section B. Questions carry equal marks.
n/a Graded No


Participation in Learning Activities: Students will be graded on their participation during seminars (NB: this is not based on attendance, but rather active discussion and participation). n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback on the mid-term Essay Assignment is given in writing via Brightspace Feedback on presentations and learning journals will be given orally in seminars either as group/class feedback or individually as appropriate. Feedback on the two-hour examination will be given by appointment in one-to-one meetings on request.

Reading List

Required materials

There are no set texts for this module; i.e. there are no works that you have to purchase in order that you consult them continuously throughout the whole semester. However, below are listed a number of works that would come in handy as reference works and introductions to the period and themes tackled.

The list that follows is by no means exhaustive; a great deal has been written about Nationalism and Northern Ireland – increasingly so in recent years – and for reasons of space a lot of material has been omitted. However, a good deal is listed below, so as to try and ensure that everyone has an increased chance of being able to access material that is relevant to each topic. Nevertheless, the library has other valuable materials, and you are encouraged to explore the relevant sections of the library for yourself. If, however, you want further suggestions for reading on any of the topics covered in this course, then please e-mail me at conor.mulvagh@ucd.ie, I will be happy to suggest other secondary texts.

A lot of material will be available on the Brightspace VLE but there are also three important internet sources that you can use for this course:

www.cain.ac.uk (Conflict Archive on the Internet): this website contains information and course material on the ‘troubles’ and politics in Northern Ireland from 1968 to the present. There is also some material on society in the region. You will find a lot of the reading available here.

www.ark.ac.uk: a resource providing access to social and political material on Northern Ireland that informs social and political debate in the region and raises the profile of social science research

www.incore.ulst.ac.uk (INCORE (International Conflict Research Institute): is a joint project of the United Nations University and the University of Ulster. Combining research, education and comparative analysis, INCORE addresses the causes and consequences of conflict in Northern Ireland and internationally and promotes conflict resolution management strategies.

www.margaretthatcher.org (Margaret Thatcher Foundation): massive online archive with thousands of text searchable documents relating to all aspects of Thatcher’s political career. Includes House of Commons debate content, cabinet minutes, press briefing documents.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/northernireland/learning/history/stateapart/ (BBC NI – A State Apart): includes fact files, oral history interviews, a brief overview of the conflict, and very short introductions to the key political and paramilitary organizations involved.

http://www.iwm.org.uk/ (Imperial War Museum): extensive photographic and text archive relating to the conflict in Northern Ireland from governmental, military, and personal perspectives

http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/ (Hansard House of Commons and House of Lords debates online): 1803-2005 fully searchable records of all speech content in the British houses of parliament.

http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/en.toc.dail.html (Dáil/Seanad debates online): as above for all Oireachtas debates from 1919 to present.

http://stormontpapers.ahds.ac.uk/stormontpapers/index.html (Stormont Debates, 1920-72): as above for Stormont.

Remember, while these internet sources are valuable and provide excellent and reputable research, they should complement secondary sources, not replace them

Background reading: For those not familiar with Irish or British history, Marc Mulholland, Northern Ireland: a very short introduction (Oxford, 2003) is a recommended introduction.

Essential reading:
• Hennessey, Thomas, A History of Northern Ireland, 1920-1996, (Dublin, 1997)
• Staunton, Enda, The Nationalists of Northern Ireland, 1918-1973, (Dublin, 2001)
• English, Richard, Irish Freedom: The History of Nationalism in Ireland, (London, 2006)
• McKitterick, D., and McVea, D., Making Sense of the Troubles, (Belfast, 2000)
• Wichert, S., Northern Ireland since 1945, (2nd ed.), (London, 1999)
• Bew, P., Gibbon, P., and Patterson, H, Northern Ireland 1921-94: Political Forces and Social Classes, (London, 1996)

Bew, P., and Gillespie, G., Northern Ireland: A Chronology of the Troubles, 1968-99, (2nd ed.), (Dublin, 1999)
Boyce, D.G., Nationalism in Ireland, (2nd ed.), (London, 1991)
Brewer, J.D., & Higgins, G.I., Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland, 1600-1998: The Mote and the Beam, (Basingstoke, 1998)
Bruce, S., God Save Ulster: The Religion and Politics of Paisleyism, (Oxford, 1986)
Coogan, T.P., Ireland Since the Rising, (London, 1966)
Cruise-O’Brien, Conor, States of Ireland, (London, 1972)
Darby, John, Conflict in Northern Ireland: the development of a polarised community, (Dublin, 1976)
Della Porta, D., ‘Life Histories in the analysis of social movement activists’, in Diani, M., & Eyerman, R., (eds.), Studying Collective Action, (London, 1992)
De Paor, Liam, Divided Ulster,(2nd ed.), (Harmonsworth, 1971)
Dixon, P., Northern Ireland: The Politics of War and Peace, (Basingstoke, 2001)
Elliot, M., The Catholics of Ulster – A History, (London, 2000)
English, R., Armed Struggle – The History of the IRA, (London, 2003)
English, R., Unionism and Modern Ireland, (Dublin, 1996)
Farrell, Michael, Northern Ireland: The Orange State, (2nd ed.), (London, 1980)
FitzGerald, G., Towards a New Ireland, (London, 1972)
Flackes, W.D., and Elliot, Sydney, Northern Ireland A Political Directory, 1968-88, (Belfast, 1989)
Gallagher, Frank, The Indivisible Island, (London, 1957)
Garvin, Tom, The Evolution of Irish Nationalist Politics, (Dublin, 1981)
Gillespie, G., Years of Darkness: The Troubles Remembered, (Dublin, 2008)
Horowitz, D., Ethnic Groups in Conflict, (London, 1985)
Keogh, Dermot, Twentieth-Century Ireland: Nation and State, (Dublin, 1994)
Lijphart, A., ‘The Northern Ireland problem: cases, theories, and solutions’, British Journal of Political Science, vol. 5
Miller, D., (ed.), Rethinking Northern Ireland: culture, ideology and colonialism, (London, 1998)
Patterson, Henry, Ireland Since 1939: The persistence of conflict, (Dublin 2006)
Whyte, J.H., Interpreting Northern Ireland, (Oxford, 1991)
McGarry, J., and O’Leary, B., Explaining Northern Ireland: Broken Images, (Oxford, 1995)
McKitterick, D., et al., Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles, (Edinburgh, 1999)
Nelson, S., Ulster’s Uncertain Defenders: Protestant Political, Paramilitary and Community Groups and the Northern Ireland Conflict, (Belfast, 1984)
O’Malley, Pádraig, The Uncivil Wars: Ireland Today, (3rd ed.), (Boston, 1997)
Rose, Richard, Governing Without Consensus: An Irish Perspective, (London, 1971)
Ruane, J., and Todd, J., The Dynamics of Conflict in Northern Ireland: power, conflict and emancipation, (Cambridge, 1996)

Bardon, Jonathan, A History of Ulster, (Belfast, 1992)
Campbell, J.J., Catholic Schools: A Survey of a Northern Ireland Problem
Garvin, Tom, The Evolution of Irish Nationalist Politics, (Dublin, 1983)
Hepburn, A.C., ‘Irish Nationalism in Ulster 1885-1921’, in Boyce & O’Day (eds), The Ulster Crisis, (Hampshire, 2006)
Lynn, B., Holding the Ground: The Nationalist Party in Northern Ireland, (Aldershot, 1997)
McGrath, M., The Catholic church and Catholic schools in Northern Ireland: the price of faith, (Dublin, 2000)
Whyte, J.H., Church and State in Modern Ireland 1923-1979, (2nd ed.) (Dublin, 1980)
Bric, Maurice and Coakley, John, ‘The roots of militant politics in Ireland’, in Bric and Coakley (eds.) From Political Violence to Negotiated Settlement, (Dublin, 2004)
Buckland, Patrick, The Factory of Grievances: Devolved Government in Northern Ireland 1921-39, (Dublin, 1979)
Holmes, Janice, and Diane Urquhart (eds), Coming into the light: the work, politics and religion of women in Ulster, 1840-1940 (Belfast, 1994)
O’Connor, Fionnuala, In Search of a State: Catholics in Northern Ireland, (Belfast, 1993)
Phoenix, Eamon, Northern Nationalism, Nationalist Politics, Partition and the Catholic Minority in NI, 1890-1940, (Belfast, 1994)
Follis, Brian, A State Under Siege: The Establishment of Northern Ireland 1920-1925, (Oxford, 1995)
Harkness, David, Northern Ireland Since 1920, (Dublin, 1983)
Kennedy, David, ‘Catholics in Northern Ireland, 1926-1939’ in Francis MacManus (ed.), The Years of the Great Test, 1926-39, (Cork, 1978)
Laffan, Michael, The Partition of Ireland 1911-1925, (Dundalk, 1983)
O’Halloran, Clare, ‘Problems posed by the Northern Ireland Minority’, in Partition and the Limits of Irish Nationalism, (Dublin, 1987)
Ward, Rachel, Women, unionism and loyalism in Northern Ireland: from 'tea-makers' to political actors (Sallins, 2006)

Fisk, Robert, In Time of War: Ireland, Ulster and the Price of Neutrality, (London, 1985)
Barton, Brian, Brookeborough: The Making of a Prime Minister, (Belfast, 1998)
Barton, Brian, Northern Ireland in the Second World War, (Belfast, 1995)
Fitzpatrick, D, The Two Irelands 1912-1939, (Oxford, 1998)
Loughlin, James, The Ulster Question since 1945, (London, 1998)
Boyce, D.G., Nationalism in Ireland, (2nd ed.), (London, 1991)
Brewer, J.D., & Higgins, G.I., Anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland, 1600-1998: The Mote and the Beam, (Basingstoke, 1998)
Farrell, Michael, Northern Ireland: The Orange State, (2nd ed.), (London, 1980)

MacStiofáin, Seán, Memoirs of a Revolutionary, (London, 1975)
Bell, J. Bowyer, The Secret Army: A History of the IRA, (3rd ed.), (New Brunswick, 1997)
Edwards, A., A History of the Northern Ireland Labour Party: Democratic socialism and sectarianism, (Manchester, 2009)
Kennedy, M., Division and Consensus: The Politics of Cross-Border Relations in Ireland 1925-1969, (Dublin, 2000)

Devlin, Bernadette, The Price of My Soul, (London, 1969)
O’Neill, Terence, The Autobiography of Terence O’Neill, (London, 1972)
Arthur, Paul, The People’s Democracy, 1968-1973, (Belfast, 1974)
Dooley, B. Black and Green: The Fight for Civil Rights in Northern Ireland and Black America, (London, 1998)
Feeney, V.E, ‘The Civil rights movement in Northern Ireland’, Éire-Ireland, 9, 2, 1974
Hennessey, T., Northern Ireland: The Origins of the Troubles, (Dublin, 2005)
Hewitt, C., ‘Catholic grievances, Catholic nationalism and violence in Northern Ireland during the Civil Rights period: A Reconsideration’, British Journal of Sociology, Vol.32, No.3, 1981.
Hewitt, C., ‘Discrimination in Northern Ireland: a rejoinder’, British Journal of Sociology, Vol.34, No.3, 1983
Hewitt, C., ‘Catholic grievances and violence in Northern Ireland’, British Journal of Sociology, Vol.36, No.1, 1985
Hewitt, C., ‘Explaining violence in Northern Ireland’, British Journal of Sociology, Vol.38, No.1, 1987
Hume, J., ‘The Northern Catholic’, Irish Times, 18-19 May 1964
Kennedy-Pipe, C., The Origins of the Present Troubles in Northern Ireland, (Essex, 1997)
Lynn, B., ‘Revising Northern Nationalism, 1960-1965’, New Hibernia Review, Vol. 4 (3), Autumn 2000
McAllister, I., ‘Political Opposition in Northern Ireland: The National Democratic Party, 1965-1970’, Economic and Social Review, Vol. 6, no. 3, 1975
McKeown, Michael, The Greening of a Nationalist, (Dublin, 1986)
Mulholland, M., Northern Ireland at the Crossroads: Ulster Unionism in the O’Neill Years 1960-9, (Basingstoke, 2000)
Ó’Dochartaigh, Niall, From Civil Rights to Armalites: Derry and the birth of the Irish troubles, (Cork, 1997)
O’Dowd, L., & Rolston, B., Northern Ireland: Between Civil Rights and Civil War, (London, 1980)
Prince, Simon, Northern Ireland’s ’68: Civil Rights, Global Revolt and the Origins of the Troubles, (Dublin, 2007)
Purdie, Bob, Politics in the Streets: The origins of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland, (Belfast, 1990)
Rose, Peter, How the Troubles came to Northern Ireland, (Basingstoke, 2000)
Walsh, Pat, From Civil Rights to National War, Catholic Politics 1964-74, (Belfast, 1989)
Whyte, J.H., ‘How much discrimination was there under Stormont 1921-68?’ in Gallagher and O’Connell (eds.), Contemporary Irish Studies, (Manchester, 1983)
McCluskey, Conn, Up off our Knees: A Commentary on the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland, (Ireland, 1989)
O’Hearn, D., ‘Catholic grievances, Catholic nationalism: a comment’, British Journal of Sociology, Vol.34, No.3, 1983
O’Hearn, D., ‘Again on discrimination in Northern Ireland: a reply to the rejoinder’, British Journal of Sociology, Vol.36, No.1, 1985

Currie, Austin, All Hell Will Break Loose, (Dublin, 2004)
Devlin, Paddy, Straight Left: An Autobiography, (Belfast, 1993)
Campbell, Sarah, Gerry Fitt and the SDLP: 'in a minority of one' (Manchester, 2015)
Peck, John, Dublin From Downing Street, (Dublin, 1978)
Whitelaw, William, The Whitelaw Memoirs, (London, 1989)
Routledge, Paul, John Hume: A Biography, (London, 1997)
Ryder, Chris, Fighting Fitt, (Belfast, 2006)
White, Barry, John Hume: Statesman of the Troubles, (Belfast, 1984)
Bishop, P. and Mallie, E., The Provisional IRA, (London, 1987)
Curran, Frank, Derry: Countdown to Disaster, (Dublin, 1986)
Hanley, B., & Millar, S., The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers Party, (Dublin, 2009)
Hennessey, T., The Evolution of the Troubles, 1970-72, (Dublin, 2007)
McAllister, Ian, The Northern Ireland Social Democratic and Labour Party: Political Opposition in a Divided Society, (London, 1977)
McClean, Raymond, The Road to Bloody Sunday, (Derry, 1997)

Bloomfield, Ken, Stormont in Crisis: A Memoir, (Belfast, 1994)
Callaghan, James, A House Divided: The Dilemma of Northern Ireland, (London, 1973)
Cruise-O’Brien, Conor, Memoir: My Life and Themes, (Dublin, 1998)
Devlin, Paddy, The Fall of the N.I. Executive, (Belfast, 1975)
Faulkner, Brian, Memoirs of a Statesman, (London, 1978)
Heath, Edward, The Course of My Life: My Autobiography, (London, 1998)
Farren, S., ‘Sunningdale: An Agreement too soon? IBIS Working Papers, No. 80, 2007
Fisk, Robert, The Point of No Return, (London, 1975)
McIntyre, Alice, Women in Belfast: how violence shapes identity (Belfast, 2004)
Gillespie, G., ‘The Sunningdale Agreement: Lost Opportunity or an Agreement Too Far? Irish Political Studies, 13, 1998
Power, P.F., ‘The Sunningdale Strategy and the Northern Majority Consent Doctrine in Anglo-Irish Relations’, Éire-Ireland, Vol. 12 (1), 1977

Wilson, Harold, Final Term: The Labour Government 1974-1976, (London, 1979)
Bew, P., and Patterson, H., The British state and the Ulster crisis: from Wilson to Thatcher, (London, 1985)
Cunningham, M., British Government Policy in Northern Ireland 1969-89: its nature and execution, (Manchester, 1991)
Gaffikin, Frank & Morrissey, Mike, Northern Ireland: The Thatcher Years, (London, 1990)
Higgins, Tanya, and Nancy Brown (eds), A look at life in Northern Ireland: how do women live in a culture driven by conflict? (Belfast, 2000)
Murray, G. & Tonge, J., Sinn Féin and the SDLP: From Alienation to Participation, (Dublin, 2005)
O’Donnell, Catherine, Fianna Fáil, Irish republicanism and the Northern Ireland troubles, 1968-2005, (Dublin, 2007)
O’Malley, Padraig, Biting at the Grave: The Irish Hunger Strikers and the Politics of Despair, (Belfast, 1990)
Beresford, David, Ten Men Dead, (London, 1987)
Bishop, Patrick and Mallie, Eamonn, The Provisional IRA, (London, 1987)
Coogan, T.P., On the Blanket: The H Block Story, (Dublin, 1980)
O’Rawe, Richard, Blanketmen: an untold story of the H-block hunger strike, (Dublin, 2005)
Campbell, McKeown & O’Hagan, (eds.), ‘Nor meekly serve my time’: the H-block struggle, 1976-1981

FitzGerald, Garret, All in a Life: An Autobiography, (Dublin, 1992)
Murray, Gerard, John Hume and the SDLP: Impact and Survival in Northern Ireland, (Dublin, 1998)
Hadden and Boyle, The Anglo-Irish Agreement: Commentary, Text and Official Review, (1989)
Kenny, The Road to Hillsborough, (1986)
O’Leary, Brendan, ‘The Anglo-Irish Agreement: Folly or Statecraft?’, West European Politics, Vol. 10, No. 1, 1987
Kelly, James, The courage of the brave: the Anglo-Irish agreement: a politico-military analysis: renegotiating for peace in Ireland (Meath, 1989)
Coughlan, Anthony, Fooled again? The Anglo-Irish Agreement and After, (Cork, 1986)
Morrison, Danny, The Hillsborough Agreement, (Belfast, 1986)
Cochrane, Feargal, ‘Irish America, the end of the IRA’s armed struggle and the utility of “soft power”’, Journal of Peace Research, vol. 44, no. 2 (March, 2007)
Pickering, Sharon, Women, policing and resistance in Northern Ireland (Dublin, 2002)
Dumbrell, John, ‘The United States and the Northern Ireland Conflict 1969-1994: From indifference to intervention’, Irish Studies in International Affairs, Vol. 6, 1995
O’Dowd, Niall, ‘The Awakening: Irish-America’s key role in the Irish peace process’ in Marianne Elliot, The Long Road to Peace in Northern Ireland, (Liverpool, 2002)
O’Clery, Conor, The Greening of the White House, (Dublin, 1996)

Maillot, A., New Sinn Féin: Irish republicanism in the twenty-first century, (London, 2005)
Bean, Kevin, The New Politics of Sinn Féin, (Liverpool, 2007)
Aretxaga, Begoña, Shattering silence: women, nationalism, and political subjectivity in Northern Ireland (New York, 1997)
Bew, Paul, Henry Patterson, and Paul Teague, Northern Ireland: Between War and Peace; The Political Future of Northern Ireland (2nd edition), (London, 2000)
Byrne, Siobhan, ‘Women and the transition from conflict in Northern Ireland: lessons for peace-building in Israel/Palestine’, Institute for British-Irish Studies (IBIS) Working Papers and Policy Papers, 2009 (https://researchrepository.ucd.ie/bitstream/10197/2416/1/89_byrne.pdf)
Dixon, Paul, The Northern Ireland Peace Process: Choreography and Theatrical Politics, (London, 2006)
Gilligan, Chris., and Tonge, Jon (eds), Peace or War?: Understanding the Peace Process in Northern Ireland (Aldershot, 1997)
Hennessey, Thomas, The Northern Ireland Peace Process: Ending the Troubles? (Dublin, 2000)
McGrattan, Cillian, and Elizabeth Meehan (eds), Everyday life after the Irish conflict: the impact of devolution and cross-border cooperation (Manchester, 2012)
Miller, Robert Lee, Rick Wilford, Freda Donoghue Miller (eds), Women and political participation in Northern Ireland (Avebury, 1996)
Tonge, Jonathan, The New Northern Irish Politics? (Basingstoke, 2005)
O’Brien, Brendan, The Long War: The IRA and Sinn Féin 1985 to today, (Dublin, 1993)
Mitchell, George, Making Peace, (London, 1999)
Roulston, Carmel, and Celia Davies (eds), Gender, democracy and inclusion in Northern Ireland (London, 2000)
Ruane, Joseph & Todd, Jennifer, The Dynamics of Conflict in Northern Ireland: Power, Conflict and Emancipation, (Cambridge, 1996)
Sales, Rosemary, Women divided: gender, religion and politics in Northern Ireland (London, 1997)
Shannon, Elizabeth, I am of Ireland: women of the North speak out (Boston, 1997)