Irish History Texts
As we are in a semester break, I am here to do service. Here are my
personals on the major texts available. I teach an Irish history survey
each year, cross-listed as an undergrad and grad level course. I am
rendering opinions in the light of their suitability for the modern Irish
history courses mentioned so far.
- THE COURSE OF IRISH HISTORY by Moody and Martin. Recently out in a
slightly updated version with an outstanding chronological appendix and a
thorough, albeit not always current, bibliography. I assign this as the
basic text for a 300/500 level course "The History of Ireland" and am
resonably happy with it although its level of analysis and its "weight"
are not totally satisfactory. It is readable, if stodgy, and it has
illustrations which help. Its exploration of modern Ireland is pretty good
but the structure overall, with different authors for the various
chapters, does not render a lot of coherence.
- IRELAND AND THE IRISH by Karl Bottigheimer. Good text, especially
for those with little background; it is weighted most heavily around the
early modern period (reflecting its author's interests). It lacks the
appendices and biblio of Moody and Martin but is insightful in its analysis.
Good balance between political and social history, less strong on
intellectual/cultural history. Weak on pre-modern Ireland.
- NINETEENTH CENTURY IRELAND by D. George Boyce; TWENTIETH CENTURY
IRELAND by Dermot Keogh. Thorough, sophisticated, well balanced, up
to date. Good analysis and bibliographies. Boyce's book could use a bit
more social and cultural history to my mind, but its political analysis is
- A SHORT HISTORY OF IRELAND by John O'Beirne Ranelagh. This book
surprised me. About 250 pages or so, it is really quite well done
although it surely needs revision to reflect more current research if it
is still available. Concise and admirably so. Skimpy biblio as I recall.
- IRELAND SINCE THE FAMINE by F.S.L. Lyons. Dated as it is, it has an
exhaustive bib and is an exhaustive work to boot. I would uphold this as
the great work of modern Irish historiography and essential in virtually
every way. I am not sure about its suitability for a standard class text
but it is an absolute must for grad students of course.
- FROM COLONY TO NATION STATE by L. McCaffery. Good but heavy on
political analysis and weak elsewhere. Readable and with a good bibliography,
it does not, as Lyons does not, really cover the essential period described.
It is dated too and I think it to be out of print.
- MODERN IRELAND by R.F. Foster. Provocative and endlessly so, this
should be a book to follow 1-5 above. It assumes much on the part of its
reader but does masterfully weave together analysis and narrative. It is
a self-consciously revisionist work however, and like others of its ilk,
must be read as an adjunct to previous scholarship. Its little footnoted
biographies is very helpful.
- THE IRISH EXPERIENCE by T. Hachey, et. al. A very political history
of modern Ireland. It is very sketchy and unsatisfactory if one is using
it at all for pre-modern Ireland. Good bibliography.
- IRELAND 1918-? by J. J. Lee. Exhaustive and well written, albeit
dryly, this is the most thorough work of this period and I would think
superceded John Murphy's IRELAND IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. It does not,
of course, cover the nineteenth century stuff nor really pre-Rising
- THE MAKING OF MODERN IRELAND, 1603-1923 by J.C. Beckett. Heavily
political history, I think this has come out in a revised version of late
which I have not seen. It was in need of revision even when it did an
admirable, workmanlike job covering the political to and fro.
I have made no references to other works such as that by E.R. Norman and
Dorothy MacCardle because they are either out of print or
tendentious and too specific for the course described. Also included in
that list would be J.J. Lee's THE MODERNIZATION OF IRISH SOCIETY.
Sean Farrell Moran, Ph.D.
Dept of History
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