ACIS Logo Pat and the Land War

The Irish Land War was an economic, political, and social conflict contested on multiple fronts. One of these fronts was the popular press, as newspapers and periodicals on both sides of the Irish Sea offered contrasting and often starkly conflicting narratives about the condition of Ireland and how it might be best improved. For their part, the majority of British newspapers tended to portray Ireland in these years as an ungovernable land rife with disorder, disloyalty, and violence. These themes were repeated and amplified in the London comic press, which offered in these years some of the most striking images of simianized and bestial Irishmen of the entire Victorian era. The comic papers are of special interest to historians because Punch and its rivals served as news aggregators, collecting, reflecting and crystallizing the current conventional wisdom more powerfully than any other periodicals. The same was true for their Irish peer Pat, the leading Dublin comic weekly. This paper will examine the ways in which Pat sought to explain and frame the Land War for its middle class Nationalist readers by exploring its construction of a counter-narrative to British representations of contemporary events. An examination of Pat’s graphic and textual comic commentary on Irish dignity and order, British misgovernment, and biases in the British reporting helps to reveal the ways in which the Land War was understood and contested by moderate, middle-class Irish nationalists.