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BOOK REVIEWS The Course of Irish History, ed. by T. W. Moody and F. X. Martin, pp. 504, Niwot, CO: Roberts Rinehart Publishers, in association with Radio Telef ís Éireann, 1995, $16.95. It admittedly is stereotypical to say that rereading The Course of Irish History is like encountering a long-lost friend, but I must. Moody and Martin’s book, in its earliest incarnation, with its distinctive blue color, was the first Irish history text that I ever read, some twenty-one years ago. I am confident that this probably is the case for many of those reading these words. While occasionally uneven in its presentations, and certainly reflective at times of the ideologies and methodologies of its various contributors, The Course of Irish History remains a splendid survey of Irish history. For the newest generation of Irish history students, one should note that The Course of Irish History initially was a spoken, rather than written, text, consisting of twenty-one radio programs transmitted by as many Irish scholars on Radio Telefís Éireann between January 24 and June 13, 1966. An additional chapter was added to the “Revised” edition (1984) and again to the present edition in order to bring the cumulative text “up to date.” For example, the final chapter of the present edition, Richard English’s “Ireland, 1982–1994” notes in passing the Provisional IRA’s cease fire in August of 1994. While the greatest number of the contributors are—or were—historians of various periods and specialties, chapters from geographers, archaeologists, and politics scholars were included in the original edition —all together a veritable “Who’s Who” of Irish academicians at midcentury. After several readings, and with the perspective of time, certain chapters stand out in various ways. For example, Cardinal Ó Fiaich’s “The Beginnings of Christianity ” seems, in retrospect, to be an uncharacteristically modest piece from one so devoted to his subject, particularly when compared to the brisk and densely packed chapter which follows it—“The Golden Age of Early Christian Ireland,” by Katherine Hughes. Liam de Paor’s breathless and engaging sorting out of the shifting patterns of alliance among the various native family kingdoms and Viking settlements of the middle Medieval period in “The Age of the Viking Wars” continues to strike BOOK REVIEWS 187 this reader as a remarkable achievement. One still reels from the amount of information conveyed in so modest an essay, an experience often repeated in the chapters covering the time from the Famine onward, periods about which, however , much more obviously is known. Brian Ó Cuív, in “Ireland in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries” is certainly correct to note, that these centuries were “an age of renaissance and progress in Ireland,” but the sense conveyed by him of an unspoiled world of idyllic medieval Celtic insularity now seems slightly strained. Fr. Martin’s portrayal of the Norman entry into Ireland possibly would make its case with less certainty about the “plan” of the Norman intrusion into Ireland were it rewritten today. Concerning Henry VIII’s attempts at Reformation in Ireland , in “The Tudor Conquest” so, too, G. A. Hayes-McCoy’s observations that the “clash [between Henry’s new system and the Irish Church] speedily became a breach” might be nuanced somewhat in a revision. In this context, Patrick Lynch’s frosty Republican orthodoxy in “The Irish Free State and the Republic of Ireland, 1921–66,” now seems slightly jarring, given the revisionist stances of most of the other contributors. The only author of two chapters, “The Age of Daniel O’Connell” and “Ireland 1966–82,” J. H. Whyte conveys a bewildered sense of faded optimism in the latter chapter concerning what “might have been” in Northern Ireland ca. 1966 which some will find curious. Given the fact that the radio lectures constituting the greater part of this book were prepared by twenty-one different individuals, it is remarkable how much continuity there is between the various “adjacent” contributions. The cumulative narrative still flows very well indeed. These essays remind one of the old Dublin Historical Association. Irish history pamphlets from a quarter century ago—by many of the same authors—in that they are such substantive...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1550-5162
Print ISSN
0013-2683
Pages
pp. 187-188
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-31
Open Access
No
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