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Miss Hahn has written the history of Ireland as if she were preparing for college finals -- it's more or less all there but bland as unsalted barley. The early period, from the battling kings of the time of the Roman occupation of Britain to the early Middle Ages -- a cloudy scene of shifting powers and the beginnings of the Christian Church, is handled with a certain dogged order; thereafter the turmoil of ""that other island"" is considered, naturally enough, in the light of the Irish policies of English rulers. Under Elizabeth I the ""Irish problem was created."" From here on Miss Hahn's approach is weighted toward a parliamentarian emphasis although after the Cromwellian settlement there is appropriate consideration given the social and agrarian conflicts and caste consolidation and disruption. She follows the fortunes of the Catholic clergy and after a discussion of their rise in the late 18th century toward a ""plateau of respectability,"" articulates one rare controversial statement: i.e. that the ""conservative path"" of the clergy might be attributed to a ""collective memory"" of ""years in the wilderness."" She treads lightly when dealing with the debatable reputation of Daniel O'Connell and covers the leadership and sectarian politics of the 19th and 20th centuries carefully and dispassionately. Too seldom Miss Hahn lets slip an entertaining aside (""In 1866. . . Nobel invented dynamite and this unwittingly exerted a considerable effect on Irish affairs"") bat this is a thoroughgoing if unleavened history of a still tumultuous nation.

Pub Date: June 11th, 1971
Publisher: Doubleday