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Middle-Class Life in Victorian Belfast$
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Alice Johnson

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620313

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620313.001.0001

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A British or an Irish city? The identity of Victorian Belfast

A British or an Irish city? The identity of Victorian Belfast

(p.274) 7 A British or an Irish city? The identity of Victorian Belfast
Middle-Class Life in Victorian Belfast

Alice Johnson

Liverpool University Press

Nineteenth-century Belfast was an Irish city unlike any other. The only Irish city to experience the industrial revolution, it enjoyed unprecedented levels of growth while other Irish cities declined. During and after the Famine, the divergence between Belfast’s fortunes and those of other Irish towns and cities became increasingly obvious. Keenly aware of its distinctive position in Irish society, Victorian Belfast - ‘Linenopolis’ - developed a civic identity based on its industry and prosperity. It projected an image of economic strength, independence and energy and consciously allied itself with British industrial centres. At the same time, however, Belfast’s unusual situation gave rise to confusion about civic and national identity. Was Belfast British, or Irish? This chapter brings together the themes of civic identity and national identity, exploring how they interacted for this social group. Through an examination of the city’s identity, image and civic pride in the post-Repeal, pre-Home Rule period, it addresses the question of what made Belfast a distinctive culture.

Keywords:   Civic pride, civic identity, national identity, Irish identity, British identity, Famine, urban identity

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