A Provisional Dictator: James Stephens and the Fenian Movement

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"A very solid-looking political biography by a Spanish academic until recently a Fellow at Maynooth." Books Ireland Summer 2007 "The author says that she has tried 'to move away from the usual emphasis on his dictatorial ways or his propagandistic manipulation of the task, in order to show him under a different and complimentary light: that of a leader determined to carry out his revolutionary aims in spite of everything and everyone, and the perpetual aspiring intellectual who managed to achieve his one great success as the founder and organiser of the IRB'. She has succeeded admirably in doing this and the A Provisional Dictator is now the definitive account on its subject." Old Kilkenny Review 2007 "The name of Stephens in well known. His book gives us the man." Books Ireland Dec 2007 "Marta Ramon's study is a revision and in many cases a correction of previous approaches to Stephens ... [her] range of vision is wide ... a thoughtful and well-documented book ... the combination of dramatic vigour and authoritative consultation of original documents is to be praised ... a great achievement." Irish Studies in Spain 2007 "Marta Ramon has produced a fine scholarly study that joins the select body of work on the Fenians that can be described as indispensable." Irish Studies Review, Vol 16 No 2 May 2008 "Marta Ramon's biography of James Stephens, the 'provisional dictator' of the Fenian movement from its founding in 1858 until his overthrow in 1866, is a fine addition to the new historiography of Fenianism, Irish republicanism, and 'advanced' nationalism. It is thoroughly researched, notably drawing on unpublished scholarly work, the Davitt Papers (TCD) and the Fenian Briefs (NAI); the writing elegantly combines narrative and analysis; and it clearly supersedes all previous biographical attempts to situate Stephens in Irish history. Finally, the book is beautifully presented by UCD Press, which has produced a pristine text, furnishing further evidence that it is Ireland's finest academic publisher, producing books that adhere to the highest international standards." Irish Historical Studies Vol. XXXVI, No. 141 May 2008 "[The book] is balanced and thoughtful throughout, with evidence weighed judiciously and verdicts delivered carefully. Moreover, it is a masterpiece of clarity, particularly where the tangled web of American relationships is concerned. The author has scoured the archives and memoirs, and made good use of the fast-growing body of theses on Fenianism, but the details and analysis have been moulded into a seamless whole, often with real elegance. There are many nicely turned sentences and well-executed set pieces, and the story is kept moving forward at a good pace. Anyone with an interest in Irish history would enjoy reading it, and students in school or university will likely treasure it. UCD Press must also be congratulated for giving it the handsome treatment it deserves, from cover to paper and typeface. James Stephens does emerge from this account as deserving of our interest and empathy. - Does he really deserve to be 'almost universally disliked'? It is to Marta Ramon's credit that one finishes her book thinking that this is a life worthy of further (including fictional) exploration." Peter Hart - Canada Research Chair in Irish Studies Memorial University of Newfoundland History Ireland Nov/Dec 2008 "Exhaustively researched in Ireland and the US, this readable book largely supersedes Desmond Ryan's 1967 study The Fenian Chief and amends the works of such authorities on the IRB and Fenianism as R. V. Comerford, William D'Arcy, and Leon O'Broin. Ramon makes sophisticated use of scattered details in correspondence, memoirs, police reports, and obscure newspapers to reconstruct Stephens' elusive activities in Ireland, Europe, and North America. Highly recommended [to] all Irish studies collections." D. M. Cregier, University of Prince Edward Island CHOICE December 2008 Vol. 46 No. 4