It is common knowledge that politicians and the press in Britain were obsessed with the French Revolution for at least a decade after 1789. The pamphlet wars following the seminal and widely circulated publications of Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine are familiar to most scholars, as are the repressive legislations and treason trials staged by William Pitt's government. Conspiracy theory became the order of the day, with the example of France adduced as a warning to England. But this accepted consensus about the French peril has served to occlude at least two other major concerns that were very much at the forefront of the national imagination. One was the situation in Ireland before, during, and after the rebellion of 1798. The other, Wil Verhoeven persuasively demonstrates, was the emigration crisis driven by the lure of a new life in America.

These concerns...

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