Spring 2018 - HIST 462W D100

Religion, Ethnicity, and Politics in Twentieth Century Northern Ireland (4)

Class Number: 3319

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 3 – Apr 10, 2018: Mon, 1:30–5:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Willeen Keough
    1 778 782-4534
    Office: AQ # 6231
  • Prerequisites:

    Prerequisite: 45 units including nine units of lower division history. Recommended: HIST 362.



Explores the creation of Northern Ireland and the conflicting understandings of the past that led to discrimination and sectarian violence in the Twentieth Century. Students with credit for HIST 462 may not take this course for further credit. Writing.


A man traveling in Northern Ireland was asked by a local publican whether he was a Protestant or a Catholic.  “I am an atheist,” the visitor replied.  “That’s fine,” his inquisitor pressed, “but are you a Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?

This may be a time-worn joke, but it reflects the degree to which religion has permeated ethnic, political, and cultural identities in Northern Ireland in the twentieth century.   Yet the conflict that has plagued this area cannot be described as a religious war.  Rather, it has been a struggle for social, economic, and political capital that has played out along sectarian lines.

These ethno-religious tensions are rooted deeply in Ireland’s past—in centuries of conquest, displacement, confiscation, colonialism, and resistance.  That past has been remembered quite differently by Protestants and Catholics, and this divergence in collective memories has shaped twentieth-century Northern Ireland in profound ways.  A long-standing siege mentality spurred Ulster Protestant unionists to lobby for partition of the counties with Protestant majorities in the early 1920s.  After partition, they continued to view the Catholic minority as “enemies within the gates,” leading to decades of segregation and discrimination by successive unionist governments in areas such as education, housing, and employment.  Interdenominational cooperation was proscribed by Catholics and Protestants alike and, as a result, class and gender struggles were muted.  In the late 1960s, a Catholic-led civil rights movement met with a violent Protestant ultra-loyalist response, which, in turn, provoked a Catholic republican backlash.  Thus began the “Troubles,” a period of escalating communal and state violence that extended from the late 1960s to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement three decades later.  And even as efforts towards peace were made, religion and ethnicity continued to shape unionist and nationalist agendas, and the shadows of the gunmen continued to haunt the process.


  • Seminar participation 15%
  • Reading responses 10%
  • Guided primary research project 20%
  • Research paper, in-class presentation of draft 15%
  • Research paper—final draft 30%
  • Critical commentary 10%



Marc Mulholland, Northern Ireland:  A Very Short Introduction (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2002).

Mairééad Nic Craith, Plural identities--singular narratives: the case of Northern Ireland (New York : Berghahn Books, 2002).

Readings and primary documents on SFU Canvas and the Internet.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html