MODERN IRELAND 1600-1972 by R.F. Foster


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Irish historian (U. of London) Foster (Charles Stewart Parnell: The Man and His Family and Lord Randolph Churchill: A Political Life) here undertakes a grand survey of Irish history from the end of the Elizabethan wars to 1972, the year that Ireland joined the Common Market. Irish history has too often been presented as a morality tale--"us" against "them" (the British), depending on who's doing the writing. But Foster, representative of a new style in Irish history, offers a more cohesive picture of Ireland, as strong on thematic issues like emigration and ascendancy culture as it is on political history and social, cultural, and economic observation. In undertaking this wide-scoped study, Foster frees Irish history from the familiar Anglocentric view by focusing on the provinces rather than on the usual (Anglo-inspired) obsession with Dublin, investigating such issues as changes in farming practices, rural resistance, and the indigenous nature of Irish Catholicism. Throughout, he sees an important thread of "Irishness" (as distinct from "Britishness") informing the historical process. (Even when the Irish were forced by circumstance to emigrate in droves, the exodus "created the sense of being part of an international community, centered on a small island that still claimed a fiercely and unrealistically obsessive identification from its emigrants.") Despite Ireland's oppressive history, Foster finds, the staying power of the Irish character has inspired a powerful state apparatus, a strong Catholic middle class, powerfully entrenched rights of landed property, and a stable political system "built on the English model but adapted to Irish preoccupations." Foster's sweeping survey, combined with his obvious engagement with his subject, makes this a valuable addition to our knowledge and understanding of Irish history.

Pub Date: March 17th, 1989
ISBN: 713-99010-4
Publisher: Viking
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