Archive for October, 2009

The history week ahead…on tv and radio: October 31st to November 6th

31 October 2009


16:55 1989: Day by day, radio, BBC2

18:45 Kevin McCloud’s Grand Tour of Europe, (See Kevin’s review of the series, here), tv, Ch4

19:00 The Lyric feature: fifty years of music in Dublin (on the history of the National Concert Hall), RTE Lyric fm

19:30 More than museums: the Natural History Museum, radio, RTE1

20:30 Blitz: the bombing of Coventry, tv, BBC2

21:30 All the King’s Men (remake of 1949 film on US politics), RTE2, tv


13:30 A short history of Ireland Omnibus, radio, BBC Radio Ulster

16:55 1989: day by day, radio, BBC4

17:00 1989: How the wall fell, radio, BBC4

19:00 The human zoo: science’s dirty secret (on exhibitions of people in the 19th and 20th C), tv, Ch4

19:00 Talking history, radio, Newstalk 106

21:00 Garrow’s law: tales from the Old Bailey (new historical legal drama), tv, BBC1

23:00 1989: day by day omnibus, radio, BBC Radio 4


14:20 Lost voices of World War I, tv, Ch4

15:45 A history of private life (see Lean’s review here), radio, BBC4

16:55 1989: day by day

21:00 The great escape: the reckoning (documentary on escape of 76 airmen from German POW camp, 1944)


15:45 A history of private life, radio, BBC4

16:55 1989: day by day, radio, BBC4

18:55 A short history of Ireland, radio, BBC Radio Ulster

20:15 Beyond the Berlin Wall, tv, RTE1


15:45 A history of private life, radio, BBC4

16:55 1989: day by day, radio, BBC4

18:55 A short history of Ireland, radio, BBC Radio Ulster

21:00 Andrew Marr’s The Making of Modern Britain, tv, BBC2


5:45 A history of private life, radio, BBC4

16:55 1989: day by day, radio, BBC4

18:55 A short history of Ireland, radio, BBC Radio Ulster

19:30 A short history of Ireland omnibus, radio, BBC Radio Ulster

21:30 Cowboys (Fiachna O Broanain visits the Ok Corral), tv, TG4


5:45 A history of private life, radio, BBC4

16:55 1989: day by day, radio, BBC4

18:55 A short history of Ireland, radio, BBC Radio Ulster

20:30 The way we worked, tv, RTE1

20:30 Cowboys (documentary on Butch Cassidy, followed by the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), tv, TG4

How to turn your PhD into a book: part 4, revise, revise, revise

30 October 2009

By Juliana Adelman

booksLet’s start with the bad news.  This whole revision business is tedious and frustrating.  The good news is that you if you put your mind to it you will not only improve this (your first) book, but you will acquire skills that will stand you in good stead for future.  Revising is effectively the same process no matter what type of prose you are looking at.  This post is a kind of miscellany of tips and thoughts.  I tried to organise them around themes, but it just didn’t work that well.  So hopefully this won’t be too convoluted.  For those of you who haven’t already read them, this post follows three others on a similar theme: part 1 (book proposals), part 2 (finding a publisher), part 3 (first revision steps).

Before you begin revising your chapters you probably need to read the whole dissertation, AGAIN.  When reading your chapters try to consider how they fit into the whole.  Do they support what you set out to do in the introduction and do they lead logically to the conclusion?  Do they link one to another?  Do you repeat yourself?

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War of the Worlds

29 October 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

War-of-the-worlds-tripod‘No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.’ (H.G. Wells, War of the Worlds, 1898, p. 1)

We all know the story of the response to the radio broadcast of War of the Worlds in 1938: the panic, the confusion, and, later, the outrage, as Orson Welles’s uninterrupted simulated news bulletins led listeners to believe that Martians had indeed invaded the earth. Some of you will have read the original (and brilliant) H.G. Wells novel of the same title, a smaller group will be fans of the Jeff Wayne musical version, and probably even less of you will have watched the surprisingly good ‘starring Tom Cruise’ adaptation for the big screen. But have you ever heard the broadcast that caused all the kerfuffle? In a web experience similar to the ‘We Choose Moon’ site marking the Apollo 11 moon landings, from 30 October you will be able to hear the original, from Welles’s series ‘The Mercury Theatre on Air’, in its entirety, seventy-one years to the minute after it originally aired. Go here for details and keep your ears open from 20.00 EST on 30 October (work that out for yourself in local time). Edit: Fintan Hoey has pointed out (see comments) that the broadcast begins at 00.00 GMT on 31 October – the perfect start to Halloween.

Bowling a Googly

28 October 2009

conspiracy cover webshopBy Myles Dungan

I have, what I think is a neat idea.

Purely by chance last week I was sitting in one of our traditional smoke-free Irish public houses (well that’s not technically true as it was a rural pub and there was a coal fire in the grate – anyway!) when a man sitting at a table close to me got up and left a package on a seat beside him as he left. Naturally, being a good citizen myself I was about to call after him. Unfortunately, in the process, a mouthful of Corona (I’m not cheap, see) went the wrong way and by the time I’d got over my coughing fit he was gone.

The package turned out to be a file full of documents relating to a company called Google. Now being an other-worldly type I am forced to concede that I was not familiar with this particular enterprise. I have since discovered by inquiring among some astonished acquaintances (What planet do you live on – was the typical reaction)  that they operate A most successful ‘search engine’ on something called the ‘World Wide Web’. Since this discovery I’ve been boning up on the ‘Internet’ as its also called, and have learned quite a lot.

Apparently the file left behind by Mr. Google Man In A Hurry contains the top-secret codes which contribute to making Google the most intuitive and frequently accessed ‘search engine’ on the Interweb.

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In praise of brevity: Philosophy Bites

27 October 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Thomas HobbesWe all know that feeling. You start out with great intentions on that 600-page tome, but one hundred eye-watering pages later begin to ask why you ever started in the first place, calculating just how long it will take to meander through the remaining 152,496 words and on to the next book on your list. But just when you begin to lose confidence in your abilities to concentrate on anything longer than the ‘News Digest’ in The Irish Times, something invariably comes along so perfectly formed it restores your faith in intellectual debate (if not quite the human race).

The Philosophy Bites series of podcasts are just such a thing of beauty – topics of grand philosophical import broken into easily digestible discussions. The format is simple: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton sit down with prominent philosophers and question and cajole their way through the latter’s areas of expertise. The topics turn out to be as varied and useful as you might expect, with contributions by everyone from Quentin Skinner (on Machiavelli’s The Prince) and Terence Irwin (on Aristotle’s Ethics) to theologian Don Cupitt (on non-realism about God). There are discussions on assisted dying, scientific realism, genocide and bombing civilians in warfare, and other recent examinations of Berkeley’s Puzzle and the myths of Nietzsche. Read More

What’s the pleasure in terror?

26 October 2009

By Christina Morin.

With Halloween fast approaching, I’ve been thinking a lot about why exactly people enjoy getting a fright. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of horror flicks – the thought of sitting in a darkened cinema just knowing that something gross and gruesome, at some unknowable but inevitable point, will eventually eat/slaughter/torture the hapless hero(ione) makes me cringe just thinking about it.

As an avid reader of the Gothic novel, though, I get the seemingly contradictory mixture of fear and excitement induced by any film or book worth its claim to ‘horror’ or ‘terror’. Every time I sit on the edge of my seat, peaking (metaphorically speaking in the case of reading a novel) through my fingers, waiting for the truly terrific to happen, I wonder, among other things, ‘why am I doing this to myself?’

Such a question was clearly in the minds of those observing the wildly enthusiastic popular response to the Gothic novel of the mid to late eighteenth century. Wondering why such a striking number of readers were so attracted to a form they considered sub-literary, critics began to ask what made terror so compelling. Anna Laetitia Barbauld, for instance, figured that there had to be something more than mere curiosity driving people on – they didn’t subject themselves to such intense fear just because they had paid for the book and felt duty-bound and a bit intrigued to see how it would all end. Rather, there was something more to the experience, some kind of productive effect of being scared that kept people reading. For Edmund Burke, this impulse to keep reading in the face of unavoidable fear – and the possible positive effects to be had from familiarity with fear – all came down to the fact that we enjoy being scared and, in that state of mixed fear and pleasure, can experience a truly mind-blowing encounter with the sublime. Read more

The history week ahead…on tv and radio: Saturday 24 October- Friday 30 October

24 October 2009

18.05: Documentary on One: The Starry Frame (letters from Irish migrants in Australia, 1849), RTÉ Radio 1

19.00: Fifty years of Music in DublinRTÉ Lyric FM.

19.30: The Scarlet Pimpernel, BBC 4 tv

20.30: Glortha an Ghorta: Great Irish Famine Folklore, RTÉ Radio 1.

21.00: Terror! Robespierre and the French Revolution, BBC 4 tv

13.15: Pobal ar Aire! Gluaiseacht Chearta Sibhialta na Gaeltachta 1969-2009, RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta

18.30: Reeling in the years 1997, RTÉ 1 tv

19.00: Reeling in the years 1998, RTÉ 1 tv

19.00: Not Forgotten: The Men Who Wouldn’t Fight, Channel 4

19.00: Talking History, Newstalk

20.00: A Tale of Two Britains (Britain in the 1930s), BBC 4 tv

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The message: films about Africa

22 October 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Idi AminI watched The Last King of Scotland again on Channel 4 on Sunday night. When I say I watched it again I mean I persevered until not even Forest Whitaker’s fantastic performance as Idi Amin could overpower the irritating plot. (For those of you not in the know: errant young Scotsman becomes doctor, runs as far away from his family as possible and, quelle Hollywood surprise, becomes chief advisor to the dictator of an East African state.) Stuck with it until I felt I had to do what all errant youths (or not-so-youths) of today do: sit, type, and add another drop to the internet ocean.

I thought first of writing a piece on the ‘real’ Idi Amin, who died in Saudi Arabia in 2003, but two things stopped me. First, Last King of Scotland actually did quite a good job (Scottish doctor/chief advisor apart) of portraying life in Amin’s Uganda. It’s pretty much all there: human flesh eating; body of dismembered wife sewn back together; utter lunacy combined with almost hilarious displays of grandeur; the unbridled corruption and paralysing fear of Amin among the Ugandan political elite; hope lost and promises broken; and the outside (British, Israeli, Libyan) interference and alliances that propped up Amin’s rule, if all painted in the broadest of brushstrokes.

And second, I didn’t want to write just another ‘horror in Africa’ story, one that ended almost thirty years ago when an increasingly disliked Amin was overthrown. Read More

Book Review: Leviathan by Philip Hoare

20 October 2009

By Juliana Adelman

leviathanA few weeks ago in a charity shop I bought my son an innocuous looking book entitled The Blue Whale.  We were about ten pages into reading it when, without warning, I turned the page to find a scene of gore that might have been directed by Quentin Tarantino.  Flipping quickly past, the next page showed cozy domestic images of people using products derived from the previous page’s massacre: margarine, hair products, make up, lamps, brushes.  Most of us hardly think about whaling these days.  In fact, whaling was still a substantial industry in Britain in the 1950s.  The international moratorium on whaling has only been in place since 1986 and is still ignored by some countries.  During the nineteenth century whaling was a huge and highly profitable industry.  It dominated the east coast of America, leaving a legacy of whaling towns (Pronvincetown, Nantucket, New Bedford) and inspiring the classic novel Moby Dick.

Leviathan is a history of whaling as well as a kind of literary journey.  Hoare traces the origins of human interest in and exploitation of the whale using Herman Melville’s Moby Dick as a central theme.  He combines natural history with details of Melville’s life and accounts of his own (Hoare’s) fascination with whales.  The book is not structured historically, despite being historical.  Instead, Hoare uses three parallel narrative strands: his own research process, Melville’s life, and the story of Moby Dick.  Read more

PhD Diary: Eamon Darcy

19 October 2009

Contributed by Eamon Darcy of Trinity College Dublin

booksDo you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation? It starts as a hobby that slowly consumes one’s life. The last year of my research has been incredibly strange. I left a pub one night as I had finally broken through a cloud of theory that overshadowed the last two chapters of my thesis. The jeers of “it must be love love love” still ring in my ears.

In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD? Money, fame, rock and roll. Need I go on?

Eamon’s Diary: Setting: Graduate Studies Office, after four years of solid research and writing. The time had finally come – submission. “You’ll receive a letter in due course detailing …”, I couldn’t focus, didn’t care, didn’t want to know. Read more