Davitt, Michael

Davitt, Michael

(dăv`ĭt), 1846–1906, Irish revolutionary and land reformer. He joined the Fenian movementFenian movement
or Fenians,
secret revolutionary society organized c.1858 in Ireland and the United States to achieve Irish independence from England by force.
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 in 1865 and was imprisoned three times by the English for his revolutionary activities. Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell were the leading figures in the organization of the National Land League in 1879 (see Irish Land QuestionIrish Land Question,
name given in the 19th cent. to the problem of land ownership and agrarian distress in Ireland under British rule. The long-term result of conquest, confiscation, and colonization was the creation of a class of English and Scottish landlords and of an
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). Influenced by the theories of Henry GeorgeGeorge, Henry,
1839–97, American economist, founder of the single tax movement, b. Philadelphia. Of a poor family, his formal education was cut short at 14, and in 1857 he emigrated to California; there he worked at various occupations before turning to newspaper writing
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, Davitt broke with Parnell over the question of land nationalization. But he remained an important Irish leader and was instrumental in bringing the Parnell and anti-Parnell factions together in the United Irish League (1898).


See his The Fall of Feudalism in Ireland (1904); study by T. W. Moody, Davitt and Irish Revolution, 1846–1882 (1981).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Davitt, Michael


Born Mar. 25, 1846, at Straide in County Mayo; died May 31, 1906, in Dublin. Irish revolutionary democrat.

The son of a small tenant farmer, Davitt began to participate actively in the Fenian movement in 1865, and in 1870 he was sentenced to 15 years of penal labor. He was freed in 1877 and kept under police surveillance. Recognizing the failure of the conspiratorial, terrorist tactics of the Fenians, he proposed combining a mass movement for agrarian reform with parliamentary and extraparliamentary struggle for national independence. In 1879, Davitt and Parnell organized the Land League. In 1890, Davitt broke with the bourgeois leaders of the movement for home rule.

Associating closely with the workers’ movement, Davitt accepted socialist ideas. He became a member of Parliament in 1895, but in 1899 he resigned in protest over the unleashing of the Boer War of 1899-1902. Davitt was an active participant in the Committee for Worker Representation. (Founded in 1900, the committee became the Labor Party in 1906.) He was sympathetic toward the revolutionary movement in Russia.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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