Archive for June 4th, 2009

Simon Schama at the Dublin Writer’s Festival

4 June 2009

By Lisa-Marie Griffith

Simon SchamaLast night I spent the evening in the company of Simon Schama, Professor of History and History of Art at Columbia University. Admittedly I wasn’t on my own and as a lowly blog writer and unpaid historian I had to share Professor Schama with 383 Dubliners who had turned up as part of the Dublin Writer’s Festival. Not surprising, perhaps: Shama has written fourteen books on history and history of art and has hosted 3 BBC history series, including the Emmy winning Power of Art. His most recent publication, and the book he had been invited to speak on, is American Future.His presence at the festival was interesting for two reasons. Schama joined a line-up that included world renowned writers of poetry, fiction and non-fiction and his inclusion at the festival proves that history writing has become an accepted facet of the literary genre. Who better to represent the history field than Simon Shama. But is he a model historian and a figure head we would like to represent the industry? On TV I have found Schama clear, passionate and to be honest more likeable than his Channel 4 rival David Starkey. While a History of Britain is not without its flaws the series and follow-up books are clear, intelligent and most importantly accessible. I have to admit though that I arrived to hear his talk in a cynical frame of mind expecting not to like him but left with two signed copies of his book under my arm. What then was my problem with Schama and why have I changed my mind?

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Colonel E.D. Doyle (1919-2009)

4 June 2009

Professor Eunan O’Halpin of Trinity College Dublin has kindly allowed us to reproduce his memorial to Colonel E.D. Doyle who passed away last week.

Ned Doyle was the first Research Associate in the Centre for Contemporary Irish History in 2003. He gave freely of his vast experience, knowledge and insight, not only of military affairs but of Irish life, during and after the weekly seminars. He did this in the most self-effacing way, and it was sometimes hard to get him to talk about his own experiences, as opposed to events of which he was an observer. In 2006 he gave a brilliant presentation on aspects of signals traffic during the Second World War from an Irish perspective: I particularly recall his use of a morse trainer key to show just how individual operators developed their own distinctive ‘hand’. In the same year, he made a pithy and timely comment during a witness seminar involving relatives of 1916 veterans (his father had fought in Dublin), cutting into a rather inconsequential tour de table on the justification or otherwise of rebellion by saying: ‘At some point you had to fight to get them out’. This drew unprecedented applause and got us off the ‘what ifs’. Despite intermittent health problems, he attended many of the seminars in 2008/9 and when asked he always had something of value to say.

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