Archive for November, 2009

Come to our launch!

19 November 2009


We hope that you’ll all come along to celebrate 6 months of successful blogging on November 19th at 6pm in the Lord Edward on Lord Edward Street in Dublin.  First and foremost we want to thank our contributors and readers in person and meet those of you that we don’t know.  So just in case you couldn’t pick us out of a line up, we offer the following photographic means of introduction:





18 November 2009

image MC 01Contributed by Michael Cronin

Interdisciplinarity is the common coin of public rhetoric on research. Like a ritual votive offering to placate the restless petulance of funders, public and private, it is has its appointed place in any number of mission statements, strategic plans and research proposals. Nobody is quite sure why it is there but there is general agreement that interdisciplinarity is a GOOD THING. So while the I-word is a must for any statement about the value and future of research there is remarkably little public debate about what it actually means and whether the tins on which it is so prominently displayed do any of the things they purport to do. More worryingly, for young researchers there is a clear disparity between institutional spin on the value of interdisciplinarity and the harsh reality of recruitment and promotion mechanisms which are still clearly rooted in established disciplines.

Read More

Review: The GAA, a People’s History

17 November 2009

Contributed by Ida Milne

gaa_peoples_history[1]Some of my strongest childhood memories derive from the GAA.  Playing in family groups on the beach in Courtown,  when a radio was switched on and the Dads were collectively lured away to the hypnotic sound of GAA commentator extraordinaire Micheal O’Hehir,  or watching my father and the neighbours hurl on the pitch on our farm as I struggled with a downsized camán, or going to Ferns to welcome the team home from Croke Park with the traditional mountain of burning tyres, the column of black smoke drawing people from miles around to the reception, as Wexford celebrated yet another All-Ireland hurling championship win.  In the 60s the Rackard brothers were legends; when Nicky came into the yard to dose the cattle we hung around, starstruck.

The GAA was and is part of my cultural background. The fact that we went to a different church on a Sunday in no way impinged on that.  But in recent years, I have noticed that historians writing about the involvement of Protestants in the GAA have tended to focus on their otherness, rather than their sharing in the same culture. For me, the GAA was and is part of the ordinariness of life, not the difference.

When The GAA, A People’s History, was published recently, I eagerly anticipated that at last here was a bottom-up history of the association ideally positioned to chronicle  the everyday involvement of members of the Church of Ireland and other non-Catholic denominations or belief systems.

Here follows the book’s entire discussion of Protestant involvement in the organisation as it appears in the chapter ‘Religion’ Read more

PhD Diary: Léan Ní Chléirigh

16 November 2009

Contributed by Léan Ní Chléirigh of Trinity College Dublin

booksDo you consider your PhD to be a job or a vocation? I’m not sure it’s either, I love it but to call it a vocation implies that somehow my PhD will make a difference and unless your a medieval ethnographer (and maybe even if you are) it won’t.

In 20 words or less, tell us why you decided to do a PhD? I genuinely can’t remember, I thought I might be good at it…

Léan’s diary: I have just started my fourth year of research and have had to take stock of what I have done with the last three years of my life, which took about five minutes. I am one of those poor souls whose PhD morphed dramatically in the beginning of third year and as a result some of my first two years’ work became redundant and I was left with only 15,000 words to my name. I know now that it was for the best but I cried for a month when it happened (Oversharing? Anyone who tells you they haven’t cried over their PhD is lying or has no soul). Read more

The history week ahead on tv and radio: 14 November to 20 November

14 November 2009

813989We’ve decided to change the format a little for the tv and radio guide. You can view it now by clicking here or at any time during the week by clicking on ‘The history week ahead on tv and radio‘ on the sidebar (under ‘Pages’). As ever, if there’s anything we’ve missed, please feel free to add it as a comment under the listings. Happy viewing and listening.

Rapairi on TG4

13 November 2009

By Lisa Marie Griffith

10111The first of TG4’s new series ‘Rapairi’, an examination of  Irish outlaws from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, aired last night. The opening show made ambitious claims. The show aims to look at 6 outlaws, tories and raparees as they were referred to in the proclamations of the day, their lives and to establish the reality behind the folklore. It also aims to examine why Irish people are disrespectful to the law. As a social historian of the eighteenth century I have often come across ‘tories and raparees’ in my research. These are men who are on the run, have skipped a court hearing, have escaped from jail and who are known and wanted criminals. Many of these men went into hiding, escaped to rural Ireland and lived like bandits and the term basically described villains and criminals. TG4, however, chose to focus on the raparee heroes of early modern Ireland- gentlemen who had been pushed outside the law because of some injustice that they had suffered.

I will have to admit I was a little bemused by TG4’s twenty-first century version of a raparee; the Rossport 5. Interspersed with their attempt to explain what an early-modern raparee was the programme had clips of the Rossport 5 outside court and anti-Shell-protests. Read more

Review: Judging Lemass

12 November 2009

Contributed by Bryce Evans

Judging LemassIn the midst of the present malaise in Irish politics and economics it’s tempting to look back to the Great Men of Irish history. Of these Great Men few are as celebrated as Seán Lemass, whose latest biographer is veteran UCD political scientist Tom Garvin. Launching Garvin’s Judging Lemass Brian Cowen staked a typically rodomontade claim to the Lemassian mantle by asserting that Lemass would back the current government’s economic strategy. As demonstrated by Cowen’s reversion to ‘What if?’ history – a dubious form of historical enquiry once dismissed by eminent historian E.P. Thompson as ‘unhistorical sh*t’ – the danger of all this celebrating of Great Men is that everyone tends to get a bit carried away. Lemass, as Garvin states in the book, was ‘not infallible’. This is about as close as the learned professor gets to any meaningful criticism of the authoritarian tendencies of the former Taoiseach though. Read more

Remembering 1989

11 November 2009

By Kevin O’Sullivan

Mass_on_the_street_1989In all of the column inches, radio interviews, television series (thanks George Lee) and film festivals (thanks IFI) to commemorate the events of 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall, something has been bugging me. Isn’t it all just a little, well, quiet? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I’ll be as sick of hearing about it as you are in a couple of weeks. It’s just that instead of the wave of coverage we’re experiencing, I’d expected a tsunami.

Listening to Matthias Middell from the University of Leipzig speak at a seminar in the Humanities Institute of Ireland, UCD, last Thursday (5 November), the reason why became readily apparent. It’s because we’re not quite sure what 1989 is, what it means, and whether it was even a revolution. Berlin may dominate our thoughts, but are we that sure about events in Budapest, Prague, Bucharest, or Warsaw? And does anyone have any idea what, if anything, happened in Sofia? Ukraine’s revolution arrived only in 2004, Georgia’s and Kyrgyzstan’s the following year. Read More

What is history?

10 November 2009

Contributed by Sarah Campbell


Napoleon called it a ‘myth’ and Henry Ford said it was ‘bunk’. E.H Carr delved into the topic but the question recently came back to tease me when I was reading Taylor Branch’s new book, The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President last week. After 79 conversations with President Bill Clinton between 1993 and 2001, Branch begins to question ‘Is history what we do, or what we record?’ Indeed, it is a pertinent question. As historians we are trained to prioritise the precious ‘official’ primary record above all else. Yet by doing so, we nearly always fail to hear the minority voice in history. This is where interviews as a research methodology comes in. Any of us who are lucky enough to study late twentieth century history (yes it IS history, not politics!) have a unique opportunity to talk to those involved in our studies. They themselves become the primary source. But what can we really learn from this methodology? Read more

Interview: Prof Nicholas Canny, NUIG, and President, Royal Irish Academy

9 November 2009

Interview date: 1 September 2009

cannyWhat book do you wish you had written?
J.H. Elliott, The Old World and the New (Cambridge a long time ago) – initially given as the Wiles Lectures in QUB.

What would you do if you were not a historian?
Make lots of money in business.

When was the last time you looked at wikipedia?
I have never looked at Wikipedia.

What event had the greatest impact on history in Ireland?
If by History you mean the writing of History I would say Read More