When mass meetings and other peaceful efforts brought no results, some women turned to more drastic, violent protests. They smashed windows or even burned buildings. Pankhurst justified such tactics as necessary to achieve victory. “There is something that governments care for far more than human life,” she declared, “and that is the security of property, so it is through property that we shall strike the enemy.” Many suffragists went on hunger strikes, risking their lives to achieve their goals.

Some titled women, like Lady Constance Lytton, joined the protests. Imprisoned after a demonstration, Lytton gave a false name and vowed to stay on a hunger strike until women won the vote. A doctor, unaware of her identity, force-fed Lytton through a tube. The painful ordeal failed to weaken Lytton's resolve. “No surrender,” she whispered. “No surrender.”

The Tide Turns

Even middle-class women who disapproved of such radical and violent actions increasingly demanded votes for women. Still, Parliament refused to grant women's suffrage. Not until 1918 did Parliament finally grant suffrage to women over age 30. Younger women did not win the right to vote for another decade.

The Irish Question

Throughout the 1800s, Britain faced the ever-present “Irish question.” The English had begun conquering Ireland in the 1100s. In the 1600s, English and Scottish settlers colonized Ireland, taking possession of much of the best farmland.

The Irish never accepted English rule. They bitterly resented settlers, especially absentee landlords who owned large estates but did not live on them. Many Irish peasants lived in desperate poverty, while paying high rents to landlords living in England. In addition, the Irish, most of whom were Catholic, had to pay tithes to support the Church of England. Under these conditions, resistance and rebellion were common.

Irish Nationalism Grows

Like the national minorities in the Austrian empire, Irish nationalists campaigned vigorously for freedom and justice in the 1800s. Nationalist leader Daniel O'connell, nicknamed “the Liberator,” organized an Irish Catholic League and held mass meetings to demand repeal of unfair laws. “My first object,” declared O'connell, “is to get Ireland for the Irish.”

Illustration of the outside of a cottage, where a family is upset as their belongings are evicted from the house.

The Irish potato blight caused great hardship, famine, and death. Without potatoes to sell, thousands of tenants could not pay rent and were evicted.

Under pressure from O'connell and other Irish nationalists, Britain slowly moved to improve conditions in Ireland. In 1829, Parliament passed the Catholic Emancipation Act, which allowed Irish Catholics to vote and hold political office. Yet many injustices remained. Absentee landlords could evict tenants almost at will. Other British laws forbade the teaching and speaking of the Irish language.

Irish Home Rule

The famine in Ireland caused by the potato blight left the Irish with a legacy of bitterness and distrust toward Britain. The Great Hunger fueled movements in Ireland that pitted radicals, such as the Fenians, who wanted an independent Ireland, against moderates who called for home rule, or local self-government.

In the 1870s, moderates found a rousing leader in the Irish nationalist, Charles Stewart Parnell. He rallied Irish members of Parliament to work for home rule. The “Irish question” disrupted British politics for decades. At times, political parties were so deeply split over the Irish question that they could not take care of other business.

As prime minister, Gladstone pushed for reforms in Ireland. He ended the use of Irish tithe money to support the Anglican church and tried to ease the hardships of Irish tenant farmers. New laws prevented landlords from charging unfair rents and protected the rights of tenants to the land they worked.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments