Encourages students, teachers and the serious investigator to reflect on the troubles which these heady and confused decades have bequeathed across the landscape and its inhabitants.
Over a century after the Easter Rising, which drew the world’s attention to the cause of Irish independence, analyses of the events surrounding this intensively documented period proliferate. Moving away from both pious patriotism and dismissive revisionism, contemporary professors such as historian Diarmaid Ferriter seek a disciplined and deliberate examination of the memories held by the people and the visual representations that this era left upon culture.
Adding to the rich oral and written archives chronicling the long fight for Ireland’s freedom, data tracking gender, class, community, religious identity, ethnic diversity, patterns of violence and the “periodization and the geography of revolution” enable sophisticated charting of how colonial resistance spreads. One ambitious map lists the locations of nearly 2,000 IRA companies active during the protracted insurgency against the British forces. The Atlas of the Irish Revolution follows in the wake of a similar 2012 volume on the “Great Famine.” Both titles display the wealth of academic scrutiny and popular record which enrich our understanding of these often-mythologized, heavily or subtly manipulated periods in modern Ireland.
However, the new tome quite literally outweighs even its hefty predecessor. At 5.1 kilos, this compilation merits its sturdy hardcover binding and its handsomely designed sections on quality paper. The generous space afforded its contributors allows over 400 period illustrations, topical sidebars of explanation and commentary, photographs and, of course, graphics and maps to explore a stretch of a few dramatic years. Actions during this time done by Irish men and women would divide some families and many communities for much of the 20th century. The fractious results would entangle millions not only in Ireland but in Britain and the diaspora, among immigrants and their children. By bonds and by arms, they chose to accelerate or halt the republican decision to break free of a monarchy.
American readers may reflect how a partisan divide did not only widen through media bias and political calculation by astute or hapless leaders. For in Ireland, the split in republican responses to the aftermath of partial separation from Britain sparked civil war, not long after a protracted guerrilla campaign to oust the forces of the Crown. These legacies of betrayal, recrimination, informing, capitulation and defiance would separate siblings, alienate comrades and motivate campaigns by what soon became a government policy (still in place) shifting the delay of Irish unification, championed by the Fianna Fáil party under Éamon de Valera.
The force of this arguably populist revolution echoes today in Ireland. Whether judged as a success, a compromise, a botch or a failure, debate enlivens this edgy topic. This resource will further both discussion around a dinner table by aficionados of this much-discussed span in the recent past and innovative research by those whose curiosity it sparks.
Having so much political, military and cartographic information between two covers, adding up to nearly a thousand pages, makes this a definitive work. While exhaustive in its examination of the material, now and then even more direction as to particular references or primary sources would have enhanced its use. Intriguing mentions of the origins of fresh testimony or heretofore elusive facts do not always have the documentation a researcher would have to rely upon to investigate the material for him- or herself. This leaves the reader admiring the effort, if once in a while lamenting the dead-end presented by the data as published. Still, this as a necessary source cannot be bettered. There is simply no equivalent extant for the value of this one-stop study.
The Atlas organizes itself on not only chronological but thematic arrangements. The key episodes from the Home Rule Crisis of 1912, the arming of volunteers loyal to or opposed against the continued occupation by England and its Irish collaborators and sympathizers, and the context of the First World War during which the Dublin-instigated rebellion occurred all gain attention. This reflects the evolving scholarly understanding of how the Irish war fits into the expansions of industrialization, geopolitics, diplomacy, emigration, labor, land reform, armaments, social unrest, poverty, surveillance, espionage, propaganda, censorship, feminism, ideological and religious influences and semi-global conflagration.
Likewise, the reverberations of the suppressed Rising emanate for decades afterwards. The War of Independence against the police, certain of the gentry and the Black and Tan British auxiliaries gain in-depth coverage. After the civil war ended a few years later, the charged reactions to the attenuated revolution would emerge in film, literature, art and memorials. History books inculcated within youth that a heavily Catholic hand lay upon the triggers aimed against largely Protestant oppressors. In the North, predictably, the attempt by most of the island to wrest control out of the hands of the King justified a firm crackdown on Catholic and nationalist populations, judged as potential fifth-columnists taking orders from not Westminster but Rome.
Given that 140 contributions by over a hundred scholars comprise these contents, the intricate examination of these divisive issues looks at the parochial (in more than one sense of the word) and personal narratives from those who participated, witnessed, opposed or cheered the grassroots attempts to establish a republic. Ulster Unionists, Southern Protestants and the “native” Irish who chose to don a British uniform all merit necessary consideration, to serve as a contrast to the predominantly “green” hue within which these martial experiences have been depicted and commemorated.
For “orange” shades of the Irish encounter over more than eight centuries with the imposing and increasing English presence blur and sharpen the historical display. This Atlas encourages students, teachers and the serious investigator from whatever avocation to reflect on the troubles which these heady and confused decades have bequeathed across the landscape and its inhabitants. And, the triumphs to which its supporters aspired, even if they did not achieve many of their socialist and non-sectarian aspirations. That unfinished story may create another entry in this series from Cork University Press. For now, this book stands in its massive size and scope as a fittingly monumental testament to the blunt and bold impacts left by these Irish uprisings, in the island and far beyond.