Victoria Sears


Education: Bachelor of Arts in history (December 2015)

McNair Project: Writing Nationalism: Thomas Davis and Education Reform in Ireland Under the Union (2014)

Mentor: Brent Maner, Ph.D.

This project began in seeking to understand the role of the Protestant Irish Nationalist and writer Thomas Davis in promoting Irish nationalism in 1840s Ireland. This process included identifying the condition of the national consciousness of Ireland following the Act of Union and the measures taken by Irish nationalists prior to Davis, such as Daniel O’Connell. The next step was to identify the specific nationalist movements Davis was involved in—the Repeal Association, the Young Ireland Movement, and The Nation newspaper—and their characteristics. In addition to this, a span of research was done in seeking to understand the different genres of nationalism expressed in Ireland throughout the nineteenth century. The goal of this project was to review the writings of Davis alongside these secondary sources in order to understand his significance in the development of Irish nationalism. An analysis was conducted of four essays written by Davis, all published in The Nation between July 1844 and May 1845, regarding education reform in order to establish an Irish national consciousness capable of obtaining independence from Great Britain. These four essays and the development of Davis’ overarching argument for education reform depict the shift that was occurring in Ireland from constitutional nationalism to revolutionary nationalism. This shift can be seen by the turn Davis makes in his writings from appealing to institutions to appealing directly to the people to take responsibility for their education and the education of Ireland. In addition to this, Davis portrayed himself in these writings as taking on an even more significant role as a romantic nationalist through his push for the development of an Irish national consciousness.