HI6044 - Taking the King's Shilling: Ireland and the British Army, 1793-1945

What will I learn on this module?

The British Army’s long running military operation in Northern Ireland during the Troubles is well known. But the army’s influence on Ireland and vice versa is part of a much older and fascinating story. While the army was regarded by many Irish nationalists before 1922 as part of the state apparatus that held Ireland in subjection, at its highpoint in the 1840s, 50 per cent of the British Army was Irish born. As well as considering their participation in global and imperial conflicts from the Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars through to World War Two, you will explore in this module how the presence of army veterans in Ireland had a significant impact on the island at key moments during the turbulent history of the Anglo-Irish union. That even when independent Ireland remained neutral during the Second World War, more than 50,000 men and women from southern Ireland volunteered for the British Army demonstrates the institution’s on-going importance. In this module you will learn about the personal, economic, and political motivations of Irish soldiers, as well the experiences of Irish people who served in the army and how their service shaped their family’s lives. You will also gain an understanding of the different ways that Irish soldiers were viewed as ‘good’ and ‘brave’ soldiers from perspectives shaped by contemporary thinking about race, identity, and nationalism. This module is organised in a chronological way, but you will also explore themes that span decades, such as martial race discourses, the ‘Stage Irishman’, and the British monarchy.

How will I learn on this module?

Weekly lectures will familiarise you with the chronology and core concepts concerning Ireland and the British Army, and the global and imperial conflicts Britain fought in between 1793 and 1945. Your weekly seminars will deepen your understanding of the key issues. You will be expected to prepare for the weekly seminars by undertaking essential and recommended reading; you will build on your independent reading by discussing your ideas and arguments in seminar discussions with your peers. All learning materials, tasks and readings will be posted on the eLearning Portal (Blackboard) to enable participation within the seminar programme. You will participate in formative assessment activities and receive feedback,and will be responsible for your own guided and independent learning. Summative assessment will match your learning against the learning outcomes for the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Your academic development will be supported through engagement with your academic tutors, your peers and programme leaders. Academic support is provided through group/individual tutorials which allow specific issues to be addressed and to promote progress in academic development. The module tutor will be accessible within publicised feedback and consultation hours and via email. Your peers will provide you with a collaborative learning environment, and your programme leader will guide you through the requirements and expectations of your course. You will also be supported through individual engagement with the academic literature, lectures and resources available on the eLearning Portal. Formative feedback will be on-going throughout seminar activities and through assessment tasks.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Knowledge and understanding of the military history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain in the context of changing Anglo-Irish relations.
2. Understanding of the major historical, political, social, and cultural themes related to Ireland.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Demonstrate a range of transferable skills, including the ability to make independent critical judgements, to critically evaluate sources, to summarise the research of others, and to present arguments in a cogent and persuasive way.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):

4. Awareness of the historical origins of contemporary political developments.
5. Curiosity about the nature of evidence on which our knowledge of the past, and therefore our understandings of the present, depend.

How will I be assessed?

Part 1A: 1 x 1,800-word biographical essay (MLOs 1–3) This assessment will involve you selecting an Irish winner of the Victoria Cross of your choice and writing a Dictionary of National Biography-style entry about your subject using relevant primary and secondary material. Your assignment needs to be properly referenced and show engagement with further texts and the relevant historical/historiographical contexts. (35%)

Part 1B: 1 x 900-word commentary on methods and sources used in writing Part 1A (MLO 5). (10%)

1 x 3,300-word essay(MLOs 1–5)
This essay will be written in response to one question chosen from a list provided by the module tutor. (55%)

Formative feedback for each assessment will be provided in seminars. Verbal and written feedback will be given on all summative assessed work. Feedback on initial summative assessments will enable you to improve on later ones.





Module abstract

Why did Irish people take the ‘King’s Shilling’ and join the British Army before and even after Irish independence in 1922? This module allows you to explore this question in terms both of the motives of Irish volunteers and in relation to how their service was very differently interpreted by Irish nationalists, British unionists, and Irish republicans. You will explore why soldiers were vital to Victoria’s army (50% of British soldiers were Irish born in the 1840s) and how army veterans had a significant impact on the island at key moments during the turbulent history of the Anglo-Irish union. That even when independent Ireland remained neutral in 1939–1945, more than 50,000 men and women from southern Ireland volunteered for the British Army demonstrates the army’s on-going appeal. This module is organised in a chronological way from the Revolutionary/Napoleonic Wars through to World War Two, but you will also explore themes that span decades, such as martial race ideas, the ‘Stage Irishman’, and the concept of ‘loyalty’.

Course info

UCAS Code T720

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2023 or September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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