Dr Marc Mulholland

Featured Publication

Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear: From Absolutism to Neo-Conservatism (OUP Oxford, October 2012).

Bourgeois History and the Politics of Fear

In 1842 Heinrich Heine, the German poet, wrote that the bourgeoisie, 'obsessed by a nightmare apprehension of disaster' and 'an instinctive dread of communism', were driven against their better instincts into tolerating absolutist government. Theirs was a 'politics motivated by fear'. Over the next 150 years, the middle classes were repeatedly accused of betraying liberty for fear of 'red revolution'. The failure of the revolutions of 1848, conservative nationalism from the 1860s, fascist victories in the first half of the twentieth-century, and repression of national liberation movements during the Cold War - these fateful disasters were all explained by the bourgeoisie's fear of the masses. For their part, conservatives insisted that demagogues and fanatics exploited the desperation of the poor to subvert liberal revolutions, leading to anarchy and tyranny. Only evolutionary reform was enduring. 

From the 1970s, however, liberal revolution revived on an unprecedented scale. With the collapse of communism, bourgeois liberty once again became a crusading, force, but now on a global scale. In the twenty-first century, the armed forces of the United States, Britain, and NATO became instruments of 'regime change', seeking to destroy dictatorship and build free-market democracies. President George W. Bush called the invasion of Iraq in 2003 a 'watershed event in the global democratic revolution'. This was an extraordinary turn-around, with the middle classes now hailed as the truly universal class which, in emancipating itself, emancipates all society. The debacle in Iraq, and the Great Recession from 2008, revealed all too clearly that hubris still invited nemesis. 

Bourgeois Liberty and the Politics of Fear examines this remarkable story, and the fierce debates it occasioned. It takes in a span from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first, covering a wide range of countries and thinkers. Broad in its scope, it presents a clear set of arguments that shed new light on the creation of our modern world.

  • Ireland
  • Socialsim
  • Revolution

In Irish history, I look at the 'national question' (almost inevitably). This has included studies of the Press, of Ulster Unionism, and of the Provisional IRA. I have written a biography of Terence O'Neill, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland from 1963 to 1969. I am also preparing a new large-scale project on Irish History based upon a fresh plunge into archives new to me.

I am currently writing two books. (1) A history of the concept of the 'proletariat' in political thought from the French revolution to the 1930s. (2) A life-story of Emmanuel Barthélemy (1820–1855), an adventurer, revolutionary, and murderer.

In terms of theory, I have written on the salience of class as an interpretative framework for modern history. Somewhat unfashionably, I have argued for a rehabilitation of the Marxist framework, whilst insisting that it has not been well understood hitherto. My work on the History of Political thought focuses less upon high theory, more upon its mid-range grappling with the exigencies of societal conflict. This has produced a recent book covering certain lines of debate from Absolutism to Neo-Conservatism.

  • Northern Ireland and the Far Left, c. 1965 – 1975

  • The Murderer of Warren Street The True Story of a Nineteenth-Century Revolutionary

  • How it Began, what might have been? Political Memoirs of Northern Ireland in the 1960s

  • Irish Labour and the 'Cooperative Commonwealth' in the era of the Great War

  • Land War Homicides

  • How to Make a Revolution: The Historical and Political Writings of Raymond Postgate

  • 'A Heavy Load': the American Civil Rights Movement and the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement

  • Revolution And The Whip Of Reaction: Technicians Of Power And The Dialectic Of Radicalisation

  • Political Violence

  • 'Marxists of Strict Observance'? The Second International, National Defence, and the Question of War

  • More

Current DPhil Students

  • Cecilia Biaggi
  • Michaela Crawley

I would be willing to hear from potential DPhil students or any potential Masters students looking at modern Irish history of socialism

I currently teach:


FHS Masters
History of the British Isles VI Disciplines Crisis of Union 
History of the British Isles VII Special Subject: Northern Ireland  
Historiography Further Subject: Ireland  
General History IV History of the British Isles: The Victorian Age  
Optional Subject: Rise and Crisis of European Socialisms History of the British Isles: The Multi-Cultural Islands   
Optional Subkect: British Radicalism General History: The European Twentieth Century