Ireland: A History


Irish history is often fragmented into single-period studies – examinations of early Christian Ireland, treatments of the Protestant Ascendancy, narratives of the Easter Rising and the War of Independence. However, I have yet to read a single-volume history that covers the full sweep of Irish heritage as well as Thomas Bartlett’s Ireland: A History.

As chair of Irish History at the University of Aberdeen, Bartlett has established preeminence in Irish military history, with past books focusing on the Catholic Question and the Rebellion of 1798. This preference shows in his new volume, as Ireland skims through all of Celtic and early Christian history in a single chapter and moves ahead to the making of Protestant Ireland and “Ireland’s long eighteenth century,” where the pace slows considerably. Despite some unevenness in coverage, however, Bartlett proves a master of every period, all the way up to his consideration of the Good Friday Agreement and continuing political negotiations over the past two decades. With aptly chosen eyewitness quotes and flashes of humor here and there, Bartlett conveys not just the sweep of historical events but the individuals – from Columbanus to Daniel O’Connell, from Patrick Pearse to Mary Robinson – who made them possible.

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