Captain Rock

The Irish Agrarian Rebellion of 1821–1824 (Paperback)

By James S. Donnelly, Jr.
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The Rockite rebellion brought Irish agrarian violence to a new level of intensity. Originating around Newcastle West in County Limerick, it took its name from its mythical leader, Captain Rock, the fictional avenger of agrarian wrongs whose name appeared on ‘laws’ or ‘regulations’ issued by the rebels.

From a study of local events that gave rise to the movement – tithes, rents, evictions, famine – Donnelly expands to explore the forces that transformed it into a regional agrarian revolt, in Cork, Limerick, Kerry, Clare, Tipperary, Waterford and Kilkenny. The conflict, ignited by the harsh policies of a newly-appointed agent to extract payments from poverty-stricken tenants, spread and gained adherents from a broad social spectrum as Ireland experienced one of its harshest economic downturns. While the economic situation fuelled the Rockite movement, Donnelly argues a confluence of economic, sectarian, and political forces sustained and magnified this outburst of violence.

The second half of this work examines the rebellion’s defining features, especially the forces that fostered extreme violence, and the government repression and economic upturn that brought about its eclipse. Drawing on a wealth of sources – letters, newspaper stories, official reports, depositions, proclamations, and threatening missives sent by Rockites to their enemies – Donnelly builds his analysis with a narrative laced with human detail.

This thorough reconstruction of the events of the movement will appeal to historians of agrarian unrest, popular uprisings, local historians and students.

Bibliographic Data

  • Book Format: Paperback
  • Published: 2009
  • Dimensions: 234 x 156 mm
  • Number of pages: 510
  • ISBN: 9781848890107
  • Illustrations note: B&W photos,

Editorial Reviews

"Impossible to fully understand modern Irish history without immersion in James S. Donnelly Jr's work."

– Joe Lee, American Catholic Historical Review

"Immensely readable and engaging."

– Journal of British Studies

"It is Donnelly's mastery of the high politics, combined with his unequalled authority on the history of Irish economy and society, which make this contribution valuable."

– The American Historical Review

"Complex but convincing picture of conflict."

– MIT Press Journal of Interdisciplinary History

"Dense in detail and scholarly in approach [and] never fails to engage."

– Tipperary Historical Journal

"Captain Rock, a superb reconstruction of one fairly brief and localised convulsion, is also an important contribution to the study of agrarian societies and a monument, weighty in both senses, to the career of a remarkable historian of Ireland."

– Studia Hibernica

"Thorough book."

– Sunday Business Post

"James Donnelly's book is a meticulous, closely argued and well-written account - an original piece of scholarship. "

– Books Ireland

"Highly recommended."

– Irish Examiner

"Monumental and deeply revelatory."

– The Irish Times

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