Cumann Seandalaiochta agus Staire Phort Lairge

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Lecture: 'Conflict & Consensus: Soldiers & Citizens in Waterford City 1820-1920

The Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society lecture season for 2018 and 2019 commences on Friday 28th September with a lecture at 8 pm in the St Patrick’s Gateway Centre, Patrick St. Waterford by Dr Aoife Bhreathnach titled ‘Conflict and Consensus: Soldiers and Citizens in Waterford City 1820-1920’.

Waterford City has been a garrison town since the first barracks were built in the eighteenth century. A 'garrison town' is not just a town with a barracks, but like 'mill town' or 'mining town', the term garrison town is verbal shorthand for an identifiably distinct town whose economic, social and cultural characteristics are defined by its barracks. Used in a derogatory way, it suggested that a town and its citizens were somehow beholden to, or contaminated by, the military forces stationed among them.

In her lecture Dr Aoife Bhreathnach will explore how military forces stationed in Waterford affected culture and society in the city and how its citizens reacted to this influence. The streets around the barracks were most directly affected by the presence of hundreds of young, single men with time and money to spare. However, married soldiers were also an important feature of garrison towns and Dr Bhreathnach will compare and contrast the different versions of military life lived in Waterford City. Although expressions of Irish nationalism were a commonplace part of civic life, people and politicians saw no contradiction between this and lobbying for more soldiers in the city. When a military barracks was empty, local politicians worked hard to ensure that soldiers were stationed there. A sophisticated electorate understood that the economic benefits of military barracks to the City were inarguable. The British Army was not the object of nationalist critique until republican propaganda began to single out soldiers for particular opprobrium in the twentieth century. Even as republicans attacked the red coats, relationships between civilians and the military continued much as before. Barracks were still supplied by local traders while soldiers drank in pubs surrounding the barracks. Nothing like the boycotting of the Royal Irish Constabulary was experienced by the military, suggesting that Irish nationalists could criticise the British state without protesting against the war machine that sustained local economies.

Dr Aoife Bhreatnach is an independent scholar researching the cultural history of Irish garrison towns. A graduate of University College Cork and DeMontfort University in the UK, her book Becoming Conspicuous: Irish Travellers, Society and the State was published in 2006. She held the Irish Government Senior Scholarship at Hertford College, Oxford. As an Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences Post-Doctoral Fellow, she worked in NUI Maynooth developing a theory of class in nineteenth-century Ireland. From this research emerged her interest in the role played by the British military in Irish social history. She blogs on and tweets as @GarrisonTowns.

This lecture will appeal to anyone interested in the social, military and political history of 19th and early 20th century Waterford City. Admission to the lecture is €5 (students €2.50), but is free for members of the Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society.

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