Overview: Links and Intersections
as African activist / philanthropy
as Irish nationalist
problematic position within Irish history.
Background / Context
• b. 1847 into a Protestant family in Kells
• Seventh child of Archdeacon Edward
• Access to her father’s library taught herself
Greek, German and metaphysics.
• Aged 16 she went temporarily blind.
Attended lectures in the College of Sciences
John Richard Green 1837-1883
• In 1877 Alice married
the Oxford historian
John Richard Green
and became her
assistant until his death
A short history of the English people (1874)
• First social and cultural
history of England.
• 32,000 copies sold in
the first year.
• Influential throughout
British Empire and
Professionalization of History
• J.R. Green was a co-
founder with James Bryce
of the English Historical
• Professionalization of
history can be considered
as an example of how
knowledge was supplanting
power at end of 19th
Alice Green’s Network
• As a result of her marriage Alice meets many
leading historians and intellectuals of her
• Gained reputation as an intellectual and
• Her home became a meeting place for
scholars, politicians, social and political
An independent historian
• After her husband’s
death Alice writes two
histories as an
• 1888 – Henry II.
• 1894 – Town Life in
the Fifteenth Century.
A.S. Green as historian
• Reacted against notions of professional
history capable of scientific methodology.
She saw all history as subjective / political.
• Experimental with sources: considering
landscapes, poetry and song, language etc. as
an important part of historical evidence.
The liberal network
• Through her marriage and engagement with
world of letters she built up exceptional
network of influential women and men.
• Networks served this knowledge-power
• Early writings about women:
– ‘Woman’s place in the world of letters’,
Nineteenth Century, 1897, vol. xli, 244, 964-74.
– Times, 19 May 1897, Letter re: University
Degrees for Women
– ‘Growing bureaucracy and parliamentary
decline’, Nineteenth Century, 1900, vol. xlvii,
Green: an advocate of Women’s Rights?
• 1889 – Green was one of the signatories of
‘Appeal against female suffrage’.
• Why did Green initially oppose suffrage?
• How did she conceptualise woman’s place in
Woman’s transcendent role
• Green saw women’s role outside the political
sphere as social reorganisers, as influencing
politics by serving beyond its parameters.
– Her work for Africa and her support for Irish
nationalism became space for realising this
Mary Kingsley & Alice Green
• From 1895-1900 Mary Kingsley and Alice Green
become closely associated and Kingsley inspires
Green’s interest in West Africa.
• Women’s work as philanthropic endeavour.
• Correspondence held in the National Library of
• Pan-African movement
starts in 1900 and various
figures involved in both
ventures namely E.W.
• From African Society
Green encouraged other
campaigners, notably E.D.
Morel & Stephen Gwynn.
The African Society
• Green establishes African Society following death
of Kingsley in 1900.
• On the surface it might be understood as a tool of
empire, amassing knowledge on Africa.
Membership inclusive of many professions
associated with Africa.
• Beneath the surface it might be understood as a
seed bed for anti-colonial interactions.
Journal of the African Society
• Longest surviving
publication in the West
specializing in African
• Catalysed a new
discussion on Africa.
• Transcends political
Changing views on Africa
• Finances the setting up of the West African
• Invites African chiefs and elders to London.
• Through Africa she tries to transcend
24 April 1904:
of the Congo people
must appeal to every
sincere and genuine
Irish national: the more
we love our land and
wish to help her people
the more keenly we feel we
cannot turn a deaf ear to
suffering and injustice
in any part of the world.”
Alice Green and Irish Nationalism
• Strongly opposed to the Boer War.
• Irish nationalist sympathies encouraged by
her husband, found new impetus through
Gaelic revival and especially Gaelic League
and language renaissance.
• A nation is its past?
Speaking Out on Ireland’s behalf
• ‘It has been the object of English instruction
in Ireland to keep the people in ignorance of
their own history. This evil is intensified
when their ignorance is exploited to depress
them yet further by the repetition of
calumnies which have done political service
for centuries …’
– Freeman’s Journal – 11 March 1905
Books on the history of Ireland
• The making of Ireland and its undoing 1200-
• Irish Nationality (1911)
• The Old Irish World (1912)
• The Government of Ireland (1921)
• The History of the Irish State to 1014 (1925)
• Studies from Irish History (1926)
Irish Nationality (1911)
• Most influential work
in moving the mind of
young Ireland since the
essays of Thomas
• 28 Feb 1911 Yorkshire
Green as the ‘most
important Irish writer
of the day.’
• Irish language revival and promotion of
• Historical Polemics (Graveyard at Durrow,
use of Tara by Lord Aberdeen)
• Cumman Na mBan.
• London Committee of the Irish Volunteers.
• Defence of Roger Casement.
• It was in her home in Grosvenor Road the
decision was taken by Green, Casement,
Childers, Figgis to run guns in to Ireland.
• Green chaired the private committee which
financed the gun-running.
• Royalties from A Short History of the
English People paid for the guns.
Dedication on the Senate casket
• No real history of Ireland has yet been
written. When the true story is finally
worked out – one not wholly occupied with
the many and insatiable plunderers – it will
give us a noble and reconciling vision of Irish
nationality. Silence and neglect will no longer
hide the fame of honourable men.
Cumann na Ban
Congo Reform Assoc.
White Cross Society
Why is Green problematic?
• Proximity to the centre of power (Political
• Association as a Protestant revolutionary.
• Use of history for ‘political’ purposes.
• Strategy to join up resistance.
• Rachel Barrett for her research assistance.
• Staff of the Limerick City Library, and
particularly Mike Maguire.
• Disclaimer: the views expressed in this
lecture are not necessarily the views of the