By 1848 all peaceful means of giving Ireland an equal place within the British Empire seemed exhausted and William Smith O'Brien found himself a reluctant revolutionary leader. An aristocratic Protestant landlord, O'Brien nevertheless commanded unrivalled respect amongst all Irish classes. Disillusioned by parliament, dismayed at Ireland's imminent disintegration during the Great Famine, and pressured by Young Irelanders of the Irish confederation, O'Brien strove to reunite with fellow-nationalists loyal to the memory of Daniel O'Connell. This biography of O'Brien provides a detailed picture of his private nature and public personality. Richard Davis provides an in-depth analysis of O'Brien's long and varied political career and argues that O'Brien was a far more consistent political thinker and active nationalist than previously believed.