The Truth in the News?
Trade Wars and Editorial Cartoons with Barry Sheppard.
The Irish Free State experienced much change and upheaval after Fianna Fáil swept to power under Eamonn de Valera in 1932. De Valera enacted a number of populist policies which aimed to dismantle the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and put political distance between the Free State and Britain. Among these were the withholding of land annuities, abolishing the Dáil’s Oath to the King of England, and abolishing the powers of the British government’s representative in Ireland. The issue of land annuities was to cause the most confrontation with Britain. Land annuities were the repayment of government loans granted to Irish tenant farmers to buy out their former landlords under the Irish Land Acts of the late 19th century.
De Valera’s refusal to repay this loan saw Britain impose a 20% tariff on trade with the Irish Free State. The Free State responded in kind by placing a similar duty on British imports. The resulting ‘Economic War’ between the Irish Free State and Britain lasted until the second half of the 1930s. The de Valera-owned Irish Press newspaper was a champion of Fianna Fáil economic policies and did much to promote the party’s agenda during the ‘Economic War’.
A key part of the newspaper’s propaganda machine were the illustrations of Press cartoonist Victor ‘Bee’ Brown. Brown captured Fianna Fáil’s economic war with Britain in a series of pithy drawings which lampooned British establishment figures, made exaggerated claims on Ireland’s position in the trade war, and promoted the goal of economic self-sufficiency. In this upbeat presentation Barry Sheppard will explore a selection of Brown’s cartoons to highlight themes which not only dominated the Anglo-Irish trade war of the 1930s, but had parallels in the recent post-Brexit trade negotiations.
Barry Sheppard is a PhD researcher in History at Queen’s University Belfast, researching transnational history and the evolution of socio-religious ideas across national borders. Barry is the presenter of ‘History Now’ on Northern Visions Television, and is a previous recipient of the Robert Dudley Edwards History Prize (2012), and the Giving Northern Ireland research bursary (2015).
Find out more: @barry_shep