This map plots the settings and references in The Devil's Acre

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Nineteenth Century Ireland
Roscommon Castle
Creative Commons AttributionRoscommon Castle - Credit: TheLizardQueen

 Martin Rea and his fellow Molly Maguires come from Roscommon in Ireland. Between 1801 and 1923 the whole of Ireland was united with Britain, though not successfully: the period is marked by campaigns for Home Rule, by conflict between Protestants and Catholics, by economic troubles, and by the devastating Great Famine of 1845-1852.

Although Ireland had fallen under British control before the nineteenth century, the Act of Union, brought about in response to the Irish rebellion at the end of the eighteenth century, formalised this subjugation. Instead of quelling rebellious feelings in Ireland, the Union merely strengthened Irish nationalism, leading to many campaigns for Home Rule.

The question of Irish independence was complicated by the religious rift between Protestants and Catholics, as Ireland's Protestants stood to lose power and security if Protestant England no longer defended their interests. The Catholics resented paying tithes to the Protestant Church of Ireland, and wanted a return to the Church of Rome alongside political independence.

Anti-British feelings in Ireland were intensified during the Great Famine, when the effect of the collapse of potato harvests was exacerbated by British neglect. While thousands were dying of hunger, the British government continued to export food from Ireland; relief efforts were feeble and ill-judged, and the government refused to let other countries deliver aid as it would reflect badly on Britain. When the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire offered £10,000, Queen Victoria requested that he send only £1,000 as she herself had offered just £2,000. The British government under Lord John Russell blockaded Irish ports to prevent Ottoman aid from reaching the Irish people. Incidents such as these, coupled with the trauma of the famine, created desperate, vengeful men such as the Molly Maguires of Devil's Acre, and plunged Ireland into the years of violence and division from which she is only just emerging.