In 1798, members of the United Irishmen were massacred by the British amid the crumbling walls of a half-built town near Waterford in Ireland. Many of the Irish were republicans inspired by the French Revolution, and the site of their demise was known as Geneva Barracks. The Barracks were the remnants of an experimental community called New Geneva, a settlement of Calvinist republican rebels who fled the continent in 1782. The British believed that the rectitude and industriousness of these imported revolutionaries would have a positive effect on the Irish populace. The experiment was abandoned, however, after the Calvinists demanded greater independence and more state money for their project. Terrorists, Anarchists, and Republicans tells the story of a utopian city inspired by a spirit of liberty and republican values being turned into a place where republicans who had fought for liberty were extinguished by the might of empire.
Richard Whatmore brings to life a violent age in which powerful states like Britain and France intervened in the affairs of smaller, weaker countries, justifying their actions on the grounds that they were stopping anarchists and terrorists from destroying society, religion and government. The Genevans and the Irish rebels, in turn, saw themselves as advocates of republican virtue, willing to sacrifice themselves for liberty, rights and the public good. Terrorists, Anarchists, and Republicans shows how the massacre at Geneva Barracks marked an end to the old Europe of diverse political forms, and the ascendancy of powerful states seeking empire and markets—in many respects the end of enlightenment itself.
Awards and Recognition
- Shortlisted for the Scottish Research Book of the Year, The Saltire Society
Richard Whatmore is professor of modern history and codirector of the Institute of Intellectual History at the University of St Andrews. He is the author of What Is Intellectual History?, Against War and Empire, and Republicanism and the French Revolution.
"A fascinating insight into a little-known but important moment in Anglo-Irish history. Whatmore brilliantly explores the tensions between and within the ideas of religious freedom, republican virtue, commercial society and imperial power."—Jesse Norman, author of Adam Smith: What He Thought, and Why It Matters
"This is a marvellously crafted study of the transplantation of Genevan republican ideals into late eighteenth-century Ireland. Having endured defeat at the hands of France in 1782, a band of exiles from Geneva embarked on a project of utopian renewal in Waterford. With great skill and sensitivity, Whatmore shows how expectations of justice, peace and prosperity were met by the reality of polarisation and antagonism in an era he dubs 'the end of enlightenment'—when large states drove out self-governing city-states, and political fanaticism was reborn across Europe. In this gem of a book, we are shown how the political fate of New Geneva captures in microcosm the trajectory of Europe in an age of revolutions."—Richard Bourke, author of Empire and Revolution: The Political Life of Edmund Burke
"Written with verve and clarity, this important book provides new insight into the political thought of the late eighteenth century, through a meticulous and skilfully woven study of the complexities and ultimate failure of the settlement of New Geneva, against the background of Genevan and British history. This decentered transnational story also symbolises for Whatmore the failure of Enlightenment social experiment. His radical questioning of influential interpretations of the French Revolution will certainly provoke debate."—Ann Thomson, European University Institute
"Terrorists, Anarchists, and Republicans will definitely be the go-to history on New Geneva far into the future. Whatmore presents an analysis that is fair and balanced, and a narrative that is nuanced and clear."—Janet Polasky, author of Revolutions without Borders: The Call to Liberty in the Atlantic World
"This is an excellently researched book on an important and original topic—the survival of small republics in an age of imperialistic monarchies. Whatmore tells a story full of ironies and fascinating characters."—Helena Rosenblatt, author of The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century