Thomas J. Clarke : 1916 revolutionary

O'Keeffe, James (2014) Thomas J. Clarke : 1916 revolutionary. Masters thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Extensive research has been carried out into the causes of the 1916 Easter Rising with commensurate investigations into the actions of the main personalities involved; Thomas J. Clarke is an exception. Research by historians into his role in 1916 has not been thorough, rigorous or sustained. The purpose of this study, which is based new and underused primary source material, is to investigate Clarke's position and influence in the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) 1907-1916; also his early life, influences and the foundations of his Fenianism (1858-1907) will be examined. The chronology of events in this thesis acts as a skeleton round which the important themes of his life, early development, growing republicanism, imprisonment and his time in America, can be arranged and discussed. These themes influenced Clarke's and the IRB's preparations for insurrection after he returned to Ireland in late 1907. From 1908 onward, Clarke used his status as the living embodiment of Fenianism in conjunction with his experience of working for Clan na Gael in America to re-galvanise the IRB. He achieved this through a policy of selective recruitment that limited the possibility of betrayal while avoiding diminution of his control over the organization.

After the declaration of War in 1914, he brought together a group of people to form the Augmented Executive of the IRB; this faction was largely responsible for the instigation, planning and implementation of the Easter Rising, 1916. This is significant, because hitherto, historians attributed planning for rebellion to the IRB Military Council; there is very little source evidence, pre-1916 to support the existence of this group. Also, new primary source material indicates that Clarke was more heavily involved in the formation of the Volunteers and in the Howth gunrunning than previously thought. This thesis will attempt to place Tom Clarke in a more central role in events leading up to 1916, by utilizing untapped and underused primary source material.

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