The introduction reviews various influential definitions of authority in political theory and sociology. It then tests their applicability to manifestations of authority in nineteenth-century Ireland, which bore a more complicated relationship to modernity than many of the societies where the nature or the very existence of authority is said to have shifted decisively in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It makes a case for the usefulness of a concept that has so far been less widely invoked in Irish historiography than related concepts like power and hegemony. Through an overview of the different chapters that make up the collection, it draws out themes that emerge across various contributions, relates them to the volume’s broader theoretical and historiographical frameworks, and suggests ways in which analyses of authority in nineteenth-century Ireland can prove relevant for discussions of more recent Irish history and of twenty-first transformations of authority in the wider world.
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