James Connolly was born in Cowgate, Edinburgh in 1868 to Irish parents. He left school at the age of eleven and worked as a printer's devil. From the age of fourteen to twenty he was a soldier in the British Army, spending his whole service in Ireland. The oppression of the ordinary Irish people that he witnessed laid the foundations of his political life.
Back in Scotland in 1889, living in Dundee, he joined the Socialist League, which had been founded by William Morris, Eleanor Marx and others in 1885. Later he joined the Scottish Socialist Federation, serving as its secretary from 1895 to 1896. He was also active in the Independent Labour Party, founded in 1893 by Keir Hardie and allies. In 1896 he took the post as paid organiser of the Dublin Socialist Society, which he rapidly transformed into the Irish Socialist Republican Party.
For the next few years he carried out political work in Ireland and Scotland. In 1898 he founded Ireland's first socialist paper, The Workers' Republic, and in 1901 he was founding editor, in Glasgow, of the Socialist which became the paper of the Socialist Labour Party when it was founded, by Connolly and others, in 1903.
He was a public speaker of note and in 1901 and 1902 he spoke in Salford. Here is a report of his visits.
From 1903 until 1909 he lived in America where he was active in the Socialist Labor Party of America, the Socialist Party of America and the Industrial Workers of the World. In 1907 he founded the Irish Socialist Federation in New York.
Returning to Ireland in 1910 he became the Belfast organiser of James Larkin's Irish Transport and General Workers Union. In 1912 he founded the Irish Labour Party to be the political wing of the Irish Trades Union Congress.
In 1913, with Captain Jack White, he founded the Irish Citizen's Army, to defend workers and strikers against attacks by the state forces. In 1916 they joined with the Irish Republican Brotherhood to stage what became known as the Easter Rising and was the Commandant of the Dublin Brigade, where the most significant action took place. He was executed by the British for his role.
Connolly was clearly a man of action, but is also renowned as a Marxist thinker and writer and was also a songwriter of note. The James Connolly Songbook was a compilation published in 1972.
Resources on James Connolly in the Library collection
C Desmond Greaves, The life and times of James Connolly - Shelfmark: G32
Samuel Levenson, James Connolly: a biography - Shelfmark: G24
Ruth Dudley Edwards, James Connolly - Shelfmark: G24
Austen Morgan, James Connolly: a political biography - Shelfmark: G34
Sean Cronin, Young Connolly - Shelfmark: G34
RM Fox, James Connolly: the forerunner - Shelfmark: G24
James Connolly: selected political writings, edited by O Dudley Edwards and B Ransome - Shelfmark: G34
James Connolly: collected works (two volumes), New Books Publications - Shelfmark: G34
The best of Connolly, edited by P MacAonghusa and L O'Reagain - Shelfmark: G34
James Connolly: selected writings, edited by P Berresford Ellis - Shelfmark: G17
Erin's hope: the end and the means - Shelfmark: AG Ireland Box 2
The new evangel: preached to Irish toilers - Shelfmark: AG Ireland Box 2
Socialism made easy - Shelfmark: AG Ireland Box 2
Labour, nationality and religion - Shelfmark: AG Ireland Box 2
Labour in Irish history - Shelfmark: G04
The reconquest of Ireland - Shelfmark: G04
Lambert McKenna, The social teachings of James Connolly (1920), reprinted 1991 with introduction by Thomas J. Morrissey - Shelfmark: G34
O Dudley Edwards, The mind of an activist: James Connolly - Shelfmark: G34
K Allen, The politics of James Connolly - Shelfmark: G34
B Ransome, Connolly's Marxism - Shelfmark: G34
A Books, Connolly: The Polish aspect - Shelfmark: G34
A Johnson, J Larragy and E McWilliams, Connolly: a Marxist analysis - Shelfmark: G34
C Reeve and AB Reeve, James Connolly and the United States - Shelfmark: G34
D Howell, A lost left: three studies in socialism and nationalism - Shelfmark: G34
N Connolly O'Brian, We shall rise again - Shelfmark: G34
For more bibliographical information try the James Connolly Society of the United States and Canada