The main legacy of the French revolution was nationalism, the
demand for separate nation states independent of multi-national and
multi-lingual empires. Irish nationalism was no exception. Its
first early manifestation was the 1798 Rebellion, but the actual
form that nationalism took in the course of the nineteenth century
relied less on abstract principle than on a demand for Catholic
rights. This proved difficult in the context of the pan-Protestant
United Kingdom. The Famine of the 1840s represented the great
breach with old ways. The death and emigration of two million of
Ireland's poorest was a human tragedy on a vast scale, but it
prepared the way for a modern agricultural and trading system as
well as increasing bitterness against the British government. In
the meantime, Ulster was transformed by the industrial revolution,
growing ever more prosperous and remote from the agrarian south.
The eventual result was the separation of the mainly Catholic south
from the United Kingdom and the establishment of an independent
Ireland, but one partitioned from the mainly Protestant north,
which remained in the United Kingdom. Richard Killeen's "Concise
History of Modern Ireland" makes complicated history simple, but
not dumbed down.
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