This introductory chapter begins with a brief discussion of poverty in the west of Ireland during the late 19th century. It shows that the most powerful force for change was provided by the people themselves. Through their activism, the small farmers and labourers were able to transform their own lives by pressuring successive governments to introduce revolutionary land legislation. Between 1891 and 1921, their agitation for land reform was largely channelled through two popular nationalist movements — the United Irish League (1898-1919) and Sinn Sinn Féin (1905-21). The focus of this book and the approach adopted are described.
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