Free Read Friday - The ‘Natural Leaders’ and their World
It May be time for another Free Read Friday! Puns aside, this month we're offering one of our Irish History texts...
This book is a richly detailed exploration of the complex and cosmopolitan urban culture inhabited by the Presbyterian elite of late-Georgian Belfast, which will prove to be of interest to a wide range of scholars working on the political, cultural and intellectual histories of both Ireland and Britain during the age of reform. Employing both biographical and thematic approaches, the book begins by examining the story of the Tennents, one of the most prominent Presbyterian families in early-nineteenth-century Belfast, before turning to reconstruct their milieu. Challenging existing narratives, the study provides a major re-assessment of the political life of late-Georgian Belfast, highlighting the activities of a close-knit group of advanced reformer – the ‘natural leaders’ of the books title – who sought to promote the cause of reform and engage with British and European political events. In addition, the book contains the first serious scholarly examination of the cultural and intellectual life of the town in the early-nineteenth century, and the first major treatment of the middle classes’ philanthropic activities. The interplay of politics and culture is discussed, as is the accuracy of Belfast’s reputation as the ‘Athens of the North’ and the religious underpinnings of the town’s charitable societies. In examining these areas, attention is paid to the influence of trends such as romanticism and evangelicalism and of writers such as Lord Byron, Walter Scott, Robert Owen and Thomas Chalmers, and it is argued that, both culturally and politically, the Presbyterian middle classes of Belfast inhabited a British world.
A fine book, a well-written and insightful study on early nineteenth-century Belfast politics. By focusing on the Tennent family and using a rich array of underutilized sources, Jonathan Jeffrey Wright has produced an important book that greatly adds to our understanding of this critical era. If the book raises as many questions as it answers, we are further indebted to the author’s work, particularly if this stimulating study leads other talented scholars to examine the rich and often ignored experience of early nineteenth-century Belfast.
Sean Farrell, Journal of British Studies, Volume 53 / Issue 01
Informed by the most recent historiographical trends and research, Wright’s book demonstrates the numerous new avenues available to historians of Ulster. Smartly organized and engagingly written, it is an important work.
Reviews in History
A rigorous, painstaking study by Jonathan Wright that authoritatively skewers myth after myth. It shines a revealing light on the political, cultural and social life of Belfast in the early 19th century.
The Irish Times
Follow the instructions below to begin the download of your Free Read Friday title or check out Jonathan's author insights for more information behind the book here.
How to download The Natural Leaders by Jonathan Jeffrey Wright:
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Previous #FreeReadFriday titles have included:
-Sacred Modernity by Tariq Jazeel
-London Underground by David Ashford
-Zachary Macaulay 1768-1838 by Iain Whyte
-Language and Literary Form in French Caribbean Writing by Celia Britton
-Labour and the Caucus by James Owen
-Assia Djebar: Out of Algeria by Jane Hiddleston
-The Politics of Memoir and the Northern Ireland Ireland Conflict by Stephen Hopkins
-The Time Machines: The Story of the Science-Fiction Pulp Magazines from the Beginning to 1950 by Mike Ashley