Andrew Phemister is Research Associate at Newcastle University. He has previously held postdoctoral positions in History at NUI Galway, the University of Oxford, and Edinburgh’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.
In this interview he discusses his new book, Land and Liberalism: Henry George and the Irish Land War (Cambridge University Press, 2023)
Irish land in the 1880s was a site of ideological conflict, with resonances for liberal politics far beyond Ireland itself. The Irish Land War, internationalised partly through the influence of Henry George, the American social reformer and political economist, came at a decisive juncture in Anglo-American political thought, and provided many radicals across the North Atlantic with a vision of a more just and morally coherent political economy. Looking at the discourses and practices of these agrarian radicals, alongside developments in liberal political thought, Andrew Phemister shows how they utilised the land question to articulate a natural and universal right to life that highlighted the contradictions between liberty and property. In response to this popular agrarian movement, liberal thinkers discarded many older individualistic assumptions, and their radical democratic implications, in the name of protecting social order, property, and economic progress. Land and Liberalism thus vividly demonstrates the centrality of Henry George and the Irish Land War to the transformation of liberal thought.
Aidan Beatty is a historian at the Frederick Honors College of the University of Pittsburgh
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