Michael Davitt Centenary Conference

Published in 18th-19th Century Social Perspectives, 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 5 (Sep/Oct 2006), News, Volume 14

Michael Davitt Centenary Conference  1Around 130 people attended this conference, including about twenty of the Davitt family. The conference was addressed by eighteen speakers, from England, Scotland, the United States and Ireland, North and South. Following an official opening by the president of the College, Pauric Travers, the keynote address, ‘Michael Davitt in historical perspective’, was delivered by Professor Joe Lee. Other speakers included John Dunleavy on ‘Davitt’s Lancashire apprenticeship’ and Fr Tom Davitt, one of his grandsons, on ‘Getting to know Grandad’. Paul Bew (‘Davitt and the agrarian radical tradition’) and Alan O’Day (‘Three visions of economics and nationality: Butt, Parnell and Davitt’) discussed the political context. The Irish political background was addressed in ‘Michael Davitt and the Irish working class’ by Fintan Lane and ‘Davitt and the Irish revolutionary movement’ by Owen McGee.
Some cultural aspects of Davitt’s life and ideas were examined by W. J. McCormack, in ‘Davitt and the literary revival’, and Pauric Travers, in ‘Davitt and education’. Davitt was an active participant in Scottish-Irish politics and this was examined in two papers, the first by Andrew Newby, ‘“Put not your faith in Irish parliamentary politics”: Davitt and the “loyal opposition” in Scotland, 1879–1887’, and the second by Elaine McFarland, ‘“Bravo Benburb!”: John Ferguson and Michael Davitt—building the democratic alliance in Scotland’. Davitt’s role in international affairs was addressed in ‘Michael Davitt, Kishinev and the American Jew’ by Hasia Diner, ‘The international radicalism of Michael Davitt, 1882–1906’ by Laurence Marley, and ‘Davitt, Major John McBride and the Boer War’ by Anthony Jordan. A paper by Laura McNeil, ‘Dissecting Davitt: (ab)using the memory of a great Irishman’, and an illustrated lecture by Brendon Deacy about his exhibition on the life of Michael Davitt, A Life in Relief, addressed aspects of Davitt’s life in image and memory.
Dinner on Saturday night was followed by performances from the singer/songwriter Andy Irvine and fiddle-players Kathleen Smith and Joe Ryan. The conference concluded with a speech by Mary Robinson, introduced by Justin Keating. The proceedings will be edited by Andrew Newby and Fintan Lane.

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