Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Profesor R. A. Rempel
Over ten thousand Britons fought as police in the First Irish War (1920-21). Most of these British police were ex-soldiers, veterans of the Great War and member of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), called 'Black and Tans' for their mixed uniforms of dark police green and military khaki. Ex-officers joined a separate force, the Auxiliary Division (ADRIC), a special emergency gendarmerie, heavily armed and reorganized in military-style companies. Pitted against the guerrillas of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the Black and Tans and Auxiliaries took many 'reprisals', assassinating Irish republicans and burning their homes and shops. As a consequence, their name became a byword for crime and violence, and the spectre of 'black-and tannery' has haunted Ireland ever since.
This dissertation uses evidence from both British and Irish archives and from British newspapers to study the British police and their behaviour in the First Irish War. According to legend the Black and Tans and Auxiliares were ex-convicts and psychopaths, hardened by prison and crazed by war. In fact, most of them were quite ordinary men, whose violent and criminal behaviour was a product of circumstance, not character. The British government would not believe that the conflict in Ireland was a war, and relied on the police to suppress the rebel 'murder gang.' Unsuited for guerrilla warfare, the RIC was already losing discipline and committing atrocities before its British reinforcements arrived. British constables lived and worked alongside Irish constables, and followed their example, good or bad. Freed from the sometimes moderate influence of the constabulary's Irish majority, Auxiliaries behaved with eve greater licence than Black and Tans. The violence of the British and Irish police was overlooked and even encouraged by the British government, which was anxious to keep up the pretence that Irish revolutionaries were merely terrorists and gangsters.
Leeson, David, "The Black and Tans: British Police in the First Irish War, 1920-21" (2003). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 816.