Interview: Prof. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín, NUI Galway

Another one of our long-delayed ‘bests’!

Interview date: 14 January 2010.

What book do you wish you had written?

Well, Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization sold so many copies, and made so much money for the author, that I’m tempted to plump for that one! But I’m sure you expect a more serious answer! Hmmm. Either James F. Kenney’s Sources for the Early History of Ireland (1929), or perhaps Helen Waddell, The Wandering Scholars (1927), or John Erickson’s The Soviet High-Command (1972).

What would you do if you were not a historian?

If I were not a historian, I might’ve been a spook! Have a curious fascination with spies & spying, codes & ciphers, and could imagine myself in some place like GCHQ or Langley! In fact, a job as archivist in the new Yasenevo KGB-HQ outside Moscow could be very interesting! On the other hand, I was once offered a (lowly) job in a bank …

When was the last time you looked at Wikipedia?

Can’t remember when I last looked at Wikipedia, but as I warn my students —under pain of death — NEVER to quote the thing as a source in their essays, I shouldn’t waste much time on it myself. Someone recently advised me to check myself out in Wikipedia! He meant it as a compliment! (I haven’t done so).

What event had the greatest impact on history in Ireland?

Undoubtedly the coming of Christianity (in 431/2). Not the coming of St Patrick, mind you — that’s another matter altogether!

What are you reading now?

Graham Farmelo’s biography of Paul Dirac, The Strangest Man. Another curious (& inexplicable) interest I have — this time in theoretical physics & theoretical physicists! Probably has something to do with Schrödinger (rather than Einstein). Can’t understand a thing about the physics, but the lives of these characters I find fascinating.

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