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Dublin 1916: an historical note on military risings

In Uncategorized on March 27, 2016 by kmflett

Dublin 1916: An historical note on military risings

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Chris Bambery has an interesting article in the current issue of Military History magazine (I got mine in Sainsburys in Tottenham) arguing that the defeat of the 1916 Dublin Easter Rising by the British was by no means a foregone conclusion.

Read the article, but perhaps the key point is that the insurgents had arms (albeit not enough after the discovery of Casement’s shipment) had military training and a plan to hold strategic locations in the city. They also anticipated (correctly) a pincer movement from elsewhere in Ireland.

Bambery might have underlined that normally, even given the above, you would expect the British State to crush such a rising as it did in Newport in November 1839 with the Chartists. However the date was 1916 and the British Army (along with numbers of Irish volunteers) was heavily involved in fighting Germany.

The article makes the point that James Connolly had studied urban risings elsewhere in the world but in reality the tactics used by the rebels were similar to those that had been adopted in the nineteenth century by the Chartists.

The Newport Rising was defeated for a number of reasons, including poor weather, lack of arms and particularly perhaps because the British Army sent its crack regiment to shoot down the Chartists in the centre of Newport. The Chartists were led by men with military training and experience of revolution elsewhere in the world but they were outgunned.

The plan was to use the Newport rising as a sign to set off similar revolts around the United Kingdom.

In August 1848 the Chartists tried to launch an insurrection in central London. It is not clear that military experience was much in evidence on this occasion, but the plan was to launch simultaneous risings at key points across the City. It was called off after it became clear the plan had been discovered. The alleged leader, the organiser of London Chartism, William Cuffay was transported to Australia.

The point is, as Bambery notes about the 1916 Rising, there was nothing intrinsically wrong about these sorts of plans that meant defeat was certain. In fact defeats did occur. On another day our side could win

The London Socialist Historians Group are holding an event to mark the 100th Anniversary of the Dublin Rising at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, WC1 on Saturday 30th April from midday. Speakers include Chris Bambery, James Heartfield and John Newsinger

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