Parnell is the most enigmatic figure in Irish history. An Anglo-Irish landlord from a distinguished and long-established Wicklow family, he became the most unlikely leader of Irish nationalism imaginable. None the less, from the late 1870s until his fall and death in 1891, he held the whole of Ireland spellbound. He established Home Rule for Ireland-previously a taboo subject in British politics-at the centre of Westminster affairs and effectively created the modern Irish state in embryo. His fall was as dramatic as his rise. The affair with Mrs Katharine O'Shea, the mother of his three children, destroyed him. Paul Bew reinterprets this enigmatic man as one who was fundamentally conservative, who wished to reconcile his own landlord class to a new Ireland, and who acknowledged and accelerated the political demands of nationalist Ireland.