Looking back

Many people are getting interested in Irish history because of the commemorations of the Easter Rising, and of the Battle of the Somme later this year.

Many people are getting interested in Irish history because of the commemorations of the Easter Rising, and of the Battle of the Somme later this year.

Hundreds of books have been published about the Rising, some of them running to more than 500 pages. So, where do you start? Some of the books have a very narrow outlook, concentrating only on the events of Easter Week itself. But the Easter Rising was not a totally unexpected event. The uprising is a recurring phenomenon in Irish history, so we need a general understanding of the history of the country to form a proper opinion.

A book which Kevin Kenna published recently ticks all the boxes. (All the Risings, 1014 – 1916, Currach Press, €14.99). The books covers nine revolts in 200 pages. Each chapter begins with a list of the main characters. Then we are given the background to the revolt and an account of the event and its consequences. The different aspects of each topic are arranged in paragraphs with headings. This means that you have no trouble picking out for further study any topic that you have a particular interest in. There are pieces of poetry throughout the book and the black and white illustrations give a sense of drama. There are frequent references to the Irish language and to Irish literature. Although this is a small book, it gives the reader a good general understanding of the course of Irish history: it is not a shallow survey.

We will never solve our problems unless we know where those problems originate. We can see that these events come in cycles: conflict and fighting – a temporary peace and a compromise – another conflict and more fighting. And so it continues. Will we be able to break the cycle?

In spite of cutbacks, the local libraries have been able to provide a good range of books about 1916. And you only need to ask a librarian if you require more information.