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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



Irish petit bourgeois republican revolutionaries, who were active from the second half of the 19th century to the early 20th century. The Fenians were members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB), a group of secret organizations, which was formed in 1858, with centers in the USA and Ireland. In the 1860’s and 1870’s, IRB organizations spread throughout Ireland and Great Britain and became established among Irish immigrants in the USA, Canada, Australia, and other countries.

The Fenians sought to bring about the creation of an independent Irish republic by means of a clandestinely prepared armed rebellion. Their movement reflected the Irish people’s disaffection with British colonial rule—a disaffection made more acute by a British campaign, particularly during the second half of the 19th century, to evict Irish tenants from the land. Yet, because of their conspiratorial activities and their leaders’ tendency to give secondary consideration to the social and economic demands of the peasantry and proletariat, the Fenians failed to win wide support among the Irish people. In March 1867, when they provoked uncoordinated uprisings in various counties of Ireland, the Fenians were quickly defeated.

The First International declared its support of the Fenians, although it criticized their tendency toward conspiratorial activities. From 1867 to 1870 the First International took part in efforts to have the death sentences that had been imposed on participants in the Fenian movement commuted, and it appealed for amnesty for all Fenian prisoners.

The Fenians turned increasingly toward terrorism during the 1870’s and 1880’s. In the USA during the mid-1860’s, the IRB was dominated by a faction that advocated armed attacks on Canada as a way of bringing about war between Great Britain and the USA; such a conflict, they believed, would create favorable conditions for a struggle in Ireland itself. Between the late 19th century and the early 20th century, some Fenians left the IRB to join other organizations fighting for the independence of Ireland. Members of the Fenian movement took part in the Easter Rising in 1916.


Marx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 39 (see Subject Index).
Rutherford, J. The Secret History of the Fenian Conspiracy, vols. 1–2. London, 1877.
O’Leary, J. Recollections of Fenians and Fenianism, vols. 1–2. London, 1896.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Synopsis: Devoted to free Ireland from British dominance, Jeremiah Knox joined the Fenian Brotherhood in the late 1880s committed to remove the British by military insurrection.
SICK plans for a "Smash a Fenian Day" are being investigated by police after threats were sent to an MSP.
On the US side there was little sympathy with Canada after the War of 1812 and Britain's failure to support the Union during the Civil War so more than a few eyes were turned when the Fenians, with a total force of 700 to 1,500 men, launched multiple attacks along the Canadian border at Niagara and in the St.
Counterattacked by 1,030 Canadian and British troops, the Fenians lasted just minutes before conducting an orderly retreat across the border--and then scattered to evade the American authorities.
Best known for the graveside oration by Padraig Pearse, the Fenian's burial on August 1, 1915, is widely regarded as a rallying cry for republicanism and armed struggle against British rule in Ireland.
Sim also considers the impact of the Fenian movement in the context of the American Civil War, a subject that has been much examined.
Steward (Mayo Clinic Development Office) and McGovern (history, Kennesaw State University) draw on previously unavailable primary sources to chart the rise and fall of the Fenian Brotherhood movement, started by Irish immigrants living in North America and the UK, and the related movement in Dublin called the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
Other topics covered include the amnesty movement which sought to free the Fenian prisoners, Casey's initial shock and later positive view of Aborigines, and the international information networks which Fenians maintained despite being imprisoned or on parole.
That necessity was to keep the Cabinet and government together so that they might enact specific reforms that would demonstrate the efficacy of peaceful, constitutional politics to the Irish people and thereby evaporate popular support for the Fenians. Although the larger arc of Jenkins's study thus reaffirms the standard narrative of the Fenian movement and Anglo-Irish relations, there is still much that is new and interesting in this book, not the least of which are his pointed comparisons of the mid-Victorian and more recent state responses to the problems of terrorism and insurgency.
We get "Gilbert McMicken and the Fenians" and then "William Charles Hopkinson and the 'Hindoo Crisis'," presented grandly as spy-masters, without any contexts for the history of Canadian security policing and powers.
This volume however covers the period when the Irish "problem" made itself explicitly felt in the Province of Canada, with the American Fenians' invasion of 1866-7.
Fenians, Freedmen, and Southern Whites: Race and Nationality in the Era of Reconstruction