Books
In the summer of 1845, Frederick Douglass, the young runaway slave catapulted to fame by his incendiary autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, arrived in Liverpool for the start of a two-year tour of Britain and Ireland he always called one of the most transformative periods of his life. Travelling through all the major cities of the British Isles, he was feted by the elite and brought crowds of thousands to their feet with devastating denunciations of slavery, often brandishing a pair of bloody manacles before his astonished audiences as part of the spectacle. He also gained his freedom - paid for by British supporters - before returning to America as a celebrity and icon of international standing.
 
Drawing on sources from both sides of the Atlantic, this book combines a unique insight into the early years of one of the great figures of the nineteenth-century world with a vivid portrait of life in Victorian Britain. It also chronicles Douglass's subsequent trips across the Atlantic, the celebrated ex-slave seeking sanctuary in Britain for a second time after being implicated in John Brown’s failed slave revolt at Harpers Ferry in 1859. A final, elegiac journey in the late 1880s meanwhile saw the aging lion continue to rail against injustice even as he started to contemplate his own sense of mortality.
'When we strove to blot out the stain of slavery and advance the rights of man,’ President Obama declared in Dublin in 2011, ‘we found common cause with your struggle against oppression. Frederick Douglass, an escaped slave and our great abolitionist, forged an unlikely friendship right here in Dublin with your great liberator, Daniel O’Connell.’
 
Frederick Douglass arrived in Ireland in the summer of 1845, the start of a two-year lecture tour of Britain and Ireland to champion freedom from slavery. He had been advised to leave America after the publication of his incendiary attack on slavery, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Douglass spent four transformative months in Ireland, filling halls with eloquent denunciations of slavery and causing controversy with graphic descriptions of slaves being tortured. He also shared a stage with Daniel O’Connell and took the pledge from the ‘apostle of temperance’ Fr Mathew. Douglass delighted in the openness with which he was received, but was shocked at the poverty he encountered.
 
This compelling account of the celebrated escaped slave’s tour of Ireland combines a unique insight into the formative years of one of the great figures of nineteenth-century America with a vivid portrait of a country on the brink of famine.
Praise & Reviews
Irish Times - ‘It’s a fascinating read, with sharp lessons for anyone campaigning on issues of social justice and human rights today.’
Irish Voice - ‘In Fenton’s scholarly but immensely readable new book Douglass’s travels in Ireland are reproduced with a novelistic eye for the telling detail.’
Irish Catholic - 'In this study Laurence Fenton provides both a splendid portrait of 'the Black O'Connell' and a fascinating account of the interplay of events in the US and Ireland at that time.'
History Ireland – ‘Scholarly and very readable.’
Books Ireland - 'Well written and researched.'
Ireland's Own - 'Compelling.'
England in the Age of Palmerston had two players of colossal influence on the world stage: Lord Palmerston himself - the dominant figure in foreign affairs in the mid-nineteenth century - and The Times - the first global newspaper, read avidly by statesmen around the world. Palmerston was also one of the first real media-manipulating politicians of the modern age, forging close links with a number of publications to create the so-called 'Palmerston press'. His relationship with The Times was more turbulent, a prolonged and bitter rivalry preceding eventual rapprochement during the Crimean War. In this book, Laurence Fenton explores the highly charged rivalry between these two titans of the mid-Victorian era, revealing the personal and political differences at the heart of an antagonism that stretched over the course of three decades. Fenton focuses on the years from 1830 to 1865, when Palmerston was British Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister for a combined total of almost twenty-five years, and when The Times, under the editorship of first Thomas Barnes and then John Delane, reached the zenith of its success. It was a period during which public interest in foreign affairs grew immeasurably, encompassing the tumultuous 'Year of Revolutions', the famous 'Don Pacifico' debate and the Crimean War.
 
Palmerston and The Times adds significantly to the understanding of the life and career of Lord Palmerston, in particular the relationship he enjoyed with the press and public opinion that was so vital to his incredibly long and multifaceted political career. It also brings to light the remarkable men behind the success of The Times, paying fair tribute to their abilities while at the same time warning against the long-standing view of The Times as a paragon of newspaper independence in this era. It will be essential reading for researchers of Victorian history and for anyone interested in the tumultuous relationship between politics and the press.
The Young Ireland Rebellion and Limerick examines the colourful and complex local dimensions to one of the key, if inglorious, events in Irish history. Limerick was the hometown of the Young Ireland leader William Smith O'Brien and the Young Ireland club there, the Sarsfield Club, was among the most active in the country. Using a range of primary sources the book charts the myriad exciting events that occurred in Limerick during 1848, the year of the failed Young Ireland rebellion. 
 
In the course of that year, Limerick was the scene of both joyous mass meetings between Old and Young Irelanders as well as an infamous riot between the two factions. Police spies found pikes in city stores and frantic missives were sent from magistrates to Dublin Castle detailing illegal nighttime drilling in the countryside of West Limerick and rifle practice in the city. 
 
The book also documents the armed hold-up of the Limerick to Tralee mail coach, the Rising in Abbeyfeale, and the prolonged flight from authorities by Richard OGorman, a Young Irelander charged with fomenting rebellion in Limerick, which took him on a treacherous journey from the wilds of south-west Ireland to Constantinople and then finally on to New York and a successful career as a lawyer.
Praise & Reviews
Irish Examiner - 'Laurence Fenton has written a tantalising introduction to the events leading to the Young Ireland rebellion of 1848.'
The Irish Story - 'Laurence Fenton has to be complimented for shining a spotlight on this often neglected period and for having produced a well written, modern and 'popular' history of not only the 1848 rebellion but of the whole Young Irelander movement from 1842 to 1848, its origins, its leadership and its legacies ... the author has a talent for creating an appropriate mood for the narrative in his writing and he makes brilliant use of contemporary newspaper accounts and sources.'
All material © Laurence Fenton