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date: 29 March 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides an overview of the history of Ulster Unionism viewed through the prism of the historiography of Unionism from the early accounts written by Unionist historians to recent academic work by historians and political scientists. It emphasizes the importance of intra-Unionist divisions both at elite level but crucially within the broader Unionist bloc along the lines of class, denomination, and region. The sectarian and supremacist dimension of Unionist rule is fully acknowledged but is put in the context of a foundational insecurity encouraged by nationalist assaults and British inconstancy. The dilemmas of post-war Unionism, strengthened by the welfare state but increasingly dependent on the British Treasury, are outlined and the reformist strategies of Terence O’Neill and his successors are assessed.

Keywords: Ulster Unionism, Orange Order, Independent Unionism, Populism, Class, Northern Ireland Labour Party

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