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An Sionnach: A Journal of Literature, Culture, and the Arts

Vol. 5 (2009)

An Sionnach is a journal of Irish Studies featuring scholarly articles, creative work, and reviews that promote active discussion and provide in-depth analysis of developments in Irish writing and Irish Studies in the United States, Ireland, and Europe, from 1958 to the present.

An Sionnach is published by Creighton University Press and distributed by the University of Nebraska Press

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The Slow Failure

Population Decline and Independent Ireland, 1920–1973

Mary E. Daly

    Today Ireland’s population is rising, immigration outpaces emigration, most families have two or at most three children, and full-time farmers are in steady decline. But the opposite was true for more than a century, from the great famine of the 1840s until the 1960s. Between 1922 and 1966—most of the first fifty years after independence—the population of Ireland was falling, in the 1950s as rapidly as in the 1880s. Mary Daly’s The Slow Failure examines not just the reasons for the decline, but the responses to it by politicians, academics, journalists, churchmen, and others who publicly agonized over their nation’s “slow failure.” Eager to reverse population decline but fearful that economic development would undermine Irish national identity, they fashioned statistical evidence to support ultimately fruitless policies to encourage large, rural farm families. Focusing on both Irish government and society, Daly places Ireland’s population history in the mainstream history of independent Ireland.
    Daly’s research reveals how pastoral visions of an ideal Ireland made it virtually impossible to reverse the fall in population. Promoting large families, for example, contributed to late marriages, actually slowing population growth further. The crucial issue of emigration failed to attract serious government attention except during World War II; successive Irish governments refused to provide welfare services for emigrants, leaving that role to the Catholic Church. Daly takes these and other elements of an often-sad story, weaving them into essential reading for understanding modern Irish history

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The Society of the Sacred Heart in 19th century France, 1800-1865

Edited by Phil Kilroy

In the wake of the Counter Reformation and more intensely after the French Revolution, religious communities of women sprang up with astonishing rapidity in France. Today their form of life is coming to an end, at least in Europe, and it is the culmination of more than three hundred years of religious life, which provided companionship for women and enabled them contribute effective social activity in society. Such a phenomenon invites analysis, both of the origins and the motivations for such an upsurge of women’s communities.The aim of this book is to bring together aspects of the private and public life of members of the Society of the Sacred Heart in 19th century France by using the extensive community and personal archives of the Society, as well as the collection of 14,000 letters of Madeleine Sophie Barat. By combining rigorous research and writing within the perspective of women’s history, the lives and achievements, the successes and failures, of these French women are shifted out of hagiography into history. This book is unique. It breaks with the tradition of religious hagiography so prevalent when writing the history of religious women in the Catholic Church. It addresses the complexity of their personal/ community lives along with their public contribution to society.

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Tourism, Landscape, and the Irish Character

British Travel Writers in Pre-Famine Ireland

William H. A. Williams

Picturesque but poor, abject yet sublime in its Gothic melancholy, the Ireland perceived by British visitors during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries did not fit their ideas of progress, propriety, and Protestantism. The rituals of Irish Catholicism, the lamentations of funeral wakes, the Irish language they could not comprehend, even the landscapes were all strange to tourists from England, Wales, and Scotland. Overlooking the acute despair in England’s own industrial cities, these travelers opined in their writings that the poverty, bog lands, and ill-thatched houses of rural Ireland indicated moral failures of the Irish character.

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Transforming 1916

Meaning, memory and the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising

by Roisín Higgins

The fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising has been held responsible for everything from the outbreak of conflict in Northern Ireland to the alienation of an entire generation in the Republic of Ireland. This book examines the myths behind the most elaborate commemoration of the Rising to date.Transforming 1916 explores the meaning and memory of the Easter Rising in 1966 and the way in which history operated in Ireland at a moment of rapid change. Transforming 1916 looks at the commemorative process through parades, statues, pageants, television programmes, exhibitions and documentary film; and considers the tensions present north and south of the border. It argues that the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising was not, in fact, an unrestrained celebration of Ireland’s past but represented instead an attempt by the Irish government to convey a message of modernisation and economic progress. Transforming 1916 casts light on what 1916 means in Ireland and illuminates the politics of commemoration as the centenary of the Rising approaches.

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Troubled Geographies

A Spatial History of Religion and Society in Ireland

Ian N. Gregory, Niall A. Cunningham, C. D. Lloyd, Ian G. Shuttleworth, and Paul S. Ell

Ireland’s landscape is marked by fault lines of religious, ethnic, and political identity that have shaped its troubled history. Troubled Geographies maps this history by detailing the patterns of change in Ireland from 16th century attempts to "plant" areas of Ireland with loyal English Protestants to defend against threats posed by indigenous Catholics, through the violence of the latter part of the 20th century and the rise of the "Celtic Tiger." The book is concerned with how a geography laid down in the 16th and 17th centuries led to an amalgam based on religious belief, ethnic/national identity, and political conviction that continues to shape the geographies of modern Ireland. Troubled Geographies shows how changes in religious affiliation, identity, and territoriality have impacted Irish society during this period. It explores the response of society in general and religion in particular to major cultural shocks such as the Famine and to long term processes such as urbanization.

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Ulster to America

The Scots-Irish Migration Experience, 1680–1830

Edited by Warren R. Hofstra

For years, immigrants from Ulster have been viewed through a monochromatic lens as hard living, hard fighting, individualistic, elitist, and resistant to authority. This groundbreaking new collection of essays challenges that entrenched view, presenting a more nuanced perspective on the Scots-Irish settlers and the crucial role they played in shaping the broader American culture. In Ulster to America: The Scots-Irish Migration Experience, 1680–1830, editor Warren R. Hofstra has gathered contributions from pioneering scholars who are rewriting the history of the Scots-Irish. In addition to presenting fresh information based on thorough and detailed research, they offer cutting-edge interpretations that help explain the Scots-Irish experience in the United States. In place of implacable Scots-Irish individualism, the writers stress the urge to build communities among Ulster immigrants. In place of rootlessness and isolation, the authors point to the trans-Atlantic continuity of Scots-Irish settlement and the presence of Germans and Anglo-Americans in so-called Scots-Irish areas. In a variety of ways, the book asserts, the Scots-Irish actually modified or abandoned some of their own cultural traits as a result of interacting with people of other backgrounds and in response to many of the main themes defining American history. While the Scots-Irish myth has proved useful over time to various groups with their own agendas—including modern-day conservatives and fundamentalist Christians—this book, by clearing away long-standing but erroneous ideas about the Scots-Irish, represents a major advance in our understanding of these immigrants. It also places Scots-Irish migration within the broader context of the historiographical construct of the Atlantic world. Organized in chronological and migratory order, this volume includes contributions on specific U.S. centers for Ulster immigrants: New Castle, Delaware; Donegal Springs, Pennsylvania; Carlisle, Pennsylvania; Opequon, Virginia; the Virginia frontier; the Carolina backcountry; southwestern Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. Ulster to America is essential reading for scholars and students of American history, immigration history, local history, and the colonial era, as well as all those who seek a fuller understanding of the Scots-Irish immigrant story.

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A Union Forever

The Irish Question and U.S. Foreign Relations in the Victorian Age

by David Sim

In the mid-nineteenth century the Irish question—the governance of the island of Ireland—demanded attention on both sides of the Atlantic. In A Union Forever, David Sim examines how Irish nationalists and their American sympathizers attempted to convince legislators and statesmen to use the burgeoning global influence of the United States to achieve Irish independence. Simultaneously, he tracks how American politicians used the Irish question as means of furthering their own diplomatic and political ends.

Combining an innovative transnational methodology with attention to the complexities of American statecraft, Sim rewrites the diplomatic history of this neglected topic. He considers the impact that nonstate actors had on formal affairs between the United States and Britain, finding that not only did Irish nationalists fail to involve the United States in their cause but actually fostered an Anglo-American rapprochement in the final third of the nineteenth century. Their failures led them to seek out new means of promoting Irish self-determination, including an altogether more radical, revolutionary strategy that would alter the course of Irish and British history over the next century.

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The Wild Rose Asylum

By Rachel Dilworth

The poems of The Wild Rose Asylum offer a multi-faceted consideration of the historical phenomenon of Ireland’s Magdalen asylums, the largest and most controversial of which were run for 150 years, until 1996, by the Catholic Church. In poems that embrace both traditional and experimental forms, Rachel Dilworth’s work explores complex factors involved in the loss by thousands of Irish women of years of their lives, numerous aspects of their identities, and countless future possibilities to confinement and arduous unpaid laundry labor as “penitents” in these facilities for so-called “fallen” women. Pervaded by a cutting awareness of an incarceration of the spirit, as well as of the beauty and naturalness of so many women’s development being suppressed and denied, these poems navigate individual and collective voice and silences, the held and withheld and disappeared or ignored, with a grace and unflinching attention. Humane and wide-ranging, The Wild Rose Asylum is a researched act of witness to an issue rife with loss—poems that seek to be “bird enough to dive far/into the heart of it and bring up something.

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