The Irish and the American Revolution with Dr. Richard Bell

The Irish and the American Revolution with Dr. Richard Bell


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Men of Irish heritage played crucial roles in fighting the American Revolution, siding with the patriots against the British Army in overwhelming numbers. This conversation will explore the American Revolution from the alternate perspective of the Irish, and their descendants living in America.

Giving testimony to the British House of Common in 1779, Joseph Galloway estimated that Irishmen composed perhaps one-half of the Continental Army. Five years later, after that Washington’s army won the war, another expert witness told Parliament that “the Irish language was as commonly spoken in the American ranks as English” and that Irish valor “determined the contest.”

Those claims contained a fair degree of exaggeration, but they capture an essential truth: that men of Irish heritage did play crucial roles in fighting the American Revolution. Irish-Americans sided with the patriots against the British Army in overwhelming numbers and shouldered muskets at Lexington and Concord, during the Battle of Bunker Hill, and at every other significant military encounter over the eight long years of war. Their numbers included general, colonels, thousands of enlisted men, and even spies—notably Hercules Mulligan, a major character in Hamilton: An American Musical.

In this conversation, the English-born but American-trained historian Dr. Richard Bell explores the Revolution from the perspective of the Irish and their descendants in America. Drawing on the latest scholarship, Bell reconstructs the history of English and Irish antagonism, the role of Roman Catholic religious faith in decisions about loyalty and affiliation, and the political and economic impact of the American Revolution on Ireland itself.

Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland and author of the new book "Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home" which is shortlisted for the George Washington Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, and the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar award. He serves as a Trustee of the Maryland Center for History and Culture, as an elected member of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, and as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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