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BOOK REVIEWS Twentieth Century Ireland: Nation and State, by Dermot Keogh, pp. 504, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994, $39.95. Dermot Keogh, the Jean Monnet Professor of History at University College, Cork, has tackled one of the most diYcult tasks facing the historian—writing a survey text. A survey text’s purpose is to serve either as a handy reference book at the side of the desk or as a basic source for students in a history course. As such, readers expect to be able to trace the development of large themes over time, review information about pivotal events, and learn how important individuals acted in key situations. The successful survey must balance its coverage of the various themes and put a human face on the transient individuals who make history happen. It must also maintain a steady narrative beat to make the themes march, sustain its analysis of the events and the actions of individuals, and, perhaps most challenging of all, present the author’s grand synthesis of what it all means. Keogh structures his narrative of Ireland since 1922 around the battles within, between, and among the political parties; the role of the bureaucracy; the relationship between church and state; the conduct of foreign policy; and the contributions that artists and women have made to the development of the nation. His survey excludes Northern Ireland, except when that region’s aVairs aVect the course of political life in the Republic. Keogh places his roots toward an emphasis on rational economic planning and a more inclusive approach to the making of public policy. Keogh’s prescience on this development provides a context for understanding the formation of the Fine Gael, Labour, and Democratic Left government in December, 1994. The contours of Keogh’s narrative of Irish diplomacy appear in the politician’s and diplomats’ ability to provide leadership on the European and world stages. It is a story of highs and lows. In the 1930s, de Valéra was a forceful voice for the rights of small nations in the League of Nations, yet his attempt to trade NATO membership for an end to partition was crude, at best. More recently, Ireland has played a full part in decision making within the European Community. In Anglo-Irish aVairs concerning Northern Ireland, Keogh observes that there is no doubting the signiWcance of the series of diplomatic agreements that began with the New Ireland Forum in 1983; these actions maintained the eYcacy of the constitutional approach to resolving problems between the three states into 1995. The best chapter in the book is devoted to a foreign policy issue—Irish neutrality in World War II. His convincBOOK REVIEWS 177 ing argument is that de Valéra and his diplomatic corps maintained an oYcial neutrality throughout the war, but operated within an evolving modus vivendi that favored the Allies. Nevertheless, Keogh does not underestimate the bitter resentment that the British maintained towards Ireland during and after the defeat of fascism. He concludes the chapter with Louis MacNeice’s chilling poem, “Neutrality”: But then look eastward from your heart, there bulks A continent, close, dark, as archetypal sin, While to the west oV your own shores the mackerel Are fat—on the Xesh of your kin. Keogh breaks the conventions of the survey text in three noteworthy ways that enhance the eVectiveness of his treatment of themes and characters. He smoothly integrates his research in the archives and newspapers with the secondary literature . This technique allows him to expand the narrative at key points, thereby giving the reader a more intimate glimpse at the unfolding of events. His story is also enhanced by information he gathered in the course of conducting interviews with major Wgures in Irish public life. This oral history material, when combined with archival work, illuminates the inXuence of the high ranking civil servants who have consistently advised government ministers on administrative policy in a professional manner from the critical days during founding of the state. And, drawing perhaps on his earlier career as a journalist, Keogh has a knack for the droll afterword that adds spice to the 400 page book. For example, noting that William T. Cosgrave...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1550-5162
Print ISSN
0013-2683
Pages
pp. 177-178
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-31
Open Access
No
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