Archive for January, 2010

Take our survey, please!

29 January 2010

We’re trying to get a feel for what our readers like and don’t like about the blog, so we’ve concocted a very short survey (only 6 questions). Please try to fill it out, even if this is the first time you have visited the blog! On average it has taken respondents (thank you) less than 5 minutes to complete.

Crisis facing the National Archives of Ireland

28 January 2010

Contributed by Peter Crooks

The National Archives of Ireland is soon to become an institutional casualty of the recession. A proposal to merge the National Archives of Ireland and the Irish Manuscripts Commission into the National Library of Ireland (note the preposition) was announced in October 2008. Draft legislation is now nearly complete. If the government moves swiftly, it may secure the passage of this ghastly proposal through the Oireachtas in time to mark the 90th anniversary of the Four Courts bombardment of 30 June 1922, which destroyed the old Public Record Office of Ireland, and with it the accumulated records of seven centuries.

This is hardly the best way to commemorate the nation’s great archival tragedy. But is it possible to generate sufficient awareness to force the government to think again? When the merger was first announced, the attention of the public was understandably on bread-and-butter issues. Now the crisis facing the National Archives has gained some attention owing to the revelation that records from 1979 due to be released under the 30-year rule cannot be processed. This provoked a flurry of correspondence in the Irish Times. Then, on 20 January last, the crisis facing the archives was raised in the Senate.

The exchange between Senator Fergal Quinn and Deputy Martin Mansergh, Minister for State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works (though not the Minister with direct responsibility for the Archives), repays close reading. Read more

The Kindle reader: how does it fare for historians?

27 January 2010

Contributed by Sarah Arndt

This Christmas brought me the newest version of Amazon’s digital book reader the Kindle. It was purchased as a solution for my increasingly problematic collection of books.  Many in academia can sympathize with my obsessive purchasing of books, and my inability to part with any – no matter how old or unread.  However the Kindle, though extremely useful in many ways, is not likely to completely take the place of traditional books purchases.

Its use as an academic tool for researchers and students depends on what types of materials you regularly read, and your willingness to upload different formats. While Amazon advertises over 400,000 titles available digitally, few if any of the specialist history books required by researchers and students are available. The history section mostly focuses on various strands of American history.  Having said this, any PDF document can be read on the Kindle making it ideal for reading online articles, older digitized books and theses which otherwise have to be read on the computer.  MS Word documents can also be converted and read on the Kindle.  Readers can add their own notes to any book or document, and look up the definition of any word, although these features are a bit awkward to use.

Perhaps its biggest personal selling point is for casual reading.  Read more

Evelina! Evelina!

26 January 2010

By Christina Morin

As I was reading Frances Burney’s Evelina (1778), it became pretty clear to me why critics of the developing novel in the mid to late eighteenth century were so concerned about its potential effect on the impressionable minds of young women. Concerned that the imaginative, if not entirely implausible, narratives of the novel as a genre would prompt young female readers to ‘dream impossible dreams’, so to speak, many eighteenth-century critics condemned novels as ‘unsafe’ and ‘unsuitable’ for female consumption. Such anxieties were, in many instances, linked to ideological concerns about patriarchal order and the prescribed private and domestic role of women in society. Novels, it was understood, frequently urged women to consider entering into the public realm, thereby vitally disordering society as a whole. At the very least, novels such as Evelina, it was thought, could prompt women to desire things they shouldn’t want, things that they really had no right desiring in the first place. Take Lord Orville – the impossibly handsome, polite, and gentlemanly hero of Burney’s novel.  Had I been, like the novel’s eponymous heroine is supposed to be, a penniless orphan, I feel sure I would’ve dreamt day and night about a rich nobleman falling in love with me and soliciting my hand in marriage, all the while knowing I was simply a genteel country bumpkin with no money, connections, or resources to bring to the match.  Of course, I’d probably also fantasise about being revealed as the rightful daughter and heiress to a rich, ex-profligate desirous of repenting for the mistakes of his past (i.e. deserting my mother, burning their marriage certificate, denying they had ever married, and dooming me to a life of poverty and dependence.) These things happen every day, right?! Read More

Top five: Political Cartoons

25 January 2010

Contributed by Felix M. Larkin

Our newest monthly feature is the ‘Top 5’. We have asked researchers to submit their favourite top 5 books within their own field of interest. This month Felix M. Larkin, author of Terror and Discord: the Shemus Cartoons in the Freeman’s Journal, 1920-1924 published by A & A Farmar, has submitted his top 5 books about political cartoons:

Forty Years of Dublin Opinion (Dublin: Dublin Opinion Ltd, 1967)

Dublin Opinion was a satirical magazine published continuously from 1922 to 1968 and celebrated for its gentle, but perceptive, cartoons.  Its motto, ‘Humour is the Safety Valve of a Nation’, is as true today as it was then!

L.P. Curtis Jr, Apes and Angels: the Irishman in Victorian caricature (London: David & Charles Ltd, 1971).

Perry Curtis is a pioneer of Irish cartoon studies, and his theme here is the racial stereotyping – in particular, the “simianization” – of the Irish in Victorian political cartoons.   This is a book about the serious side of comic art.

Roy Douglas, Liam Harte & Jim O’Hara, Drawing Conclusions: a cartoon history of Anglo-Irish relations, 1798-1998 (Belfast: The Blackstaff Press, 1998)

The great value of this book is that it demonstrates the changing styles of caricature over two hundred years.  The authors present a wide range of cartoons, from a variety of sources, highlighting the often absurd nature of Ireland’s relationship with Britain.

Read more

Witness to War at the National Photographic Archives

22 January 2010

Contributed by Ciarán Wallace

An interesting new exhibition of images from the Black & Tan and Civil Wars has opened at the National Photographic Archive in Dublin’s Temple Bar.  Alongside some familiar shots of Irish politicians and British military figures are many less well known images; the streets of Dublin and Cork during the War of Independence, domestic scenes of Arthur Griffith with his children and National Army troops embarking on the coastal voyage to capture Cork city.  The poster image for the exhibition is among a number of photographs showing locals salvaging firewood and scrap from barracks destroyed by retreating Republican forces.  Indeed the sight of individual civilians and crowds helps to emphasise the local and intimate nature of events in the revolutionary period.  The caption cards carry original text by Rev. Denis Wilson, a chaplain to the National Army, describing the works of Dublin photographer W.D. Hogan.  While the information sheet explains Wilson’s strongly pro-Irish and pro-Treaty sentiment, this is not made clear on the captions themselves, with result that the National Photographic Archive appears to hold these somewhat biased opinions.  Simple quotation marks around descriptions of England’s minions at leisure, the innocent pastimes of the Irish or enthusiastic crowd welcoming National Army troops into Cork might resolve the confusion.  The excellent reproduction quality, and the large format of the prints, makes this engaging exhibition well worth a visit.

Witness to War runs from January to mid-May 1010, entrance is free. Opening hours:  Mon – Fri: 10am to 5pm Sat: 10am to 2pm.

It began in Africa: a brief history of NGOs, the media and emergency aid

21 January 2010

By Kevin O’Sullivan

To most of us in the developed world, disaster, emergency relief and development aid are integral to our understanding of the global South. Mention Africa and we think of Ethiopia, Live Aid, Bob Geldof and a tactless Wembley stadium belting out ‘We are the champions of the world’. We remember Somalia, Rwanda, bulging Trócaire boxes, Concern fasts in the parish community centre, Oxfam shops, missionary collections, the Far East and the GOAL Christmas Day run. In the evening we put up with ads for World Vision and a gentle voice imploring you to ‘sponsor’ a child named Ndugu disturbing the break between instalments of football, Friends and Sex and the City.

Timeless though it seems, this system is a relatively new construct. It began just over forty years ago in West Africa, on 12 June 1968, when ITV broadcast a series of heart-breaking scenes from civil war-torn eastern Nigeria, renamed Biafra by the secessionists. Among the over-crowded masses of refugees it showed starving children close to death, lying on rickety hospital beds, with little or no access to food and medicine. To today’s viewer the images are sadly familiar; but in the history of aid and emergency relief, Biafra and the massive media coverage it spawned mark an important turning point. Read More

A history of traditional music in Dublin since 1901

19 January 2010

Contributed by Lisa Marie Griffith

For those of you in and around the capital 27-31st January an event not to miss is the Temple Bar Tradfest. This must be the biggest event that Temple Bar hosts and it is set to get even better this year. The festival looks set to promote not just the traditional aspect of Temple Bar and trad music, there is a Food and Pub trail and free music in pubs throughout the area, they are set to cater for eaveryones tastes- this includes those interested in history! One part of the multi-media and interactive aspect of the festival is the Traditional music in Dublin photogprah exhibition in Temple Bar Gallery &  studios. The exhibition is by Castle Ceili Band flute player, Mick O’Connor who is currently writing a history of the Dublin Piper’s Club. ‘The material, much of which has never been on public display before is drawn from Mick’s lifelong and extensive collection of photographs and writings.’ A highlight of the exhibit is the picture inset of the 1916 proclamation signatory Eamon Ceannt who was secretary of the Dublin Piper’s Club. Anyone interested in the history of the club can click here for a longer piece on the Comhaltas blog. The exhibition will appeal to social historians or anyone interested in Traditional Irish music and culture.

Introducing and interviewing our new editor: Dr Christina Morin, QUB

18 January 2010

Since we launched Pue’s Occurrences in what seems like another era – the beginning of last summer – things have only gone from strength to strength. A large part of that, of course, is down to the quality of posts we have received (keep them coming, and click here to see how to contribute a piece of your own) and the level of interaction and comment from the most important element of this blog: you, our readers. We are always trying to find ways of improving and/or appreciating what works; so, for those of you who have already filled out our reader survey, your comments are greatly appreciated, and for those of you who have yet to do so, whether Pue’s is a daily or weekly stopping-off point, or one that you have only just stumbled upon, go here to give us your thoughts. It will only take a few minutes, and is greatly appreciated.

One of the consequences of Pue’s success has been to make us all the more aware of the need to continue to expand our horizons. We are delighted, therefore, to announce that Christina Morin, postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University Belfast, has agreed to join the team of editors at Pue’s Occurrences. Tina’s research interests centre on late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Irish fiction, romantic literature, and the gothic novel, and if you are a regular reader you will have enjoyed her posts on those very subjects here on Pue’s over the last few months. But enough of the general introductions. Back in June we introduced ourselves (Juliana, Lisa-Marie and Kevin) via our regular interview slot, so we thought it fitting to have Tina do the same…

Interview: Dr Christina Morin, Institute of Irish Studies, QUB

18 January 2010

Interview date: 13 January 2010

What book do you wish you had written?
Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (1936)

What would you do if you were not a literary critic?
Worry less about my future! Seriously though, I love doing what I do now, but if I couldn’t be a literary critic anymore, for whatever reason, I’d probably be a journalist or secondary school teacher.

When was the last time you looked at Wikipedia?
Last month, to settle a bet. Read More