Curtis is perhaps best known for her work The
Propaganda War. It was an insightful analysis
of the role of the media in the conflict here. In
her latest work, The Cause of Ireland, Curtis
has demonstrated that her ability as a writer and
researcher has if anything improved. It is probably
true to say that this book will not be well received
outside of the nationalist community. In many respects
it is a standard contribution to nationalist historiography.
difficulty with assessing any historiographical work
lies in the ability of the reviewer to possess a good
knowledge of alternative perspectives. Lacking that,
the casual reader - as is the case with the present
reviewer - is left to form their own opinion, quite
often armed with the preconceived notions held prior
to opening the first page.
Curtis offers a detailed and comprehensive account
of major developments from 1798 to 1922. An immediate
source of puzzlement, however, lies in the portion
of the book devoted to the last fifty years of the
period examined - roughly 250 pages. The remaining
150 years are dealt with in 150 pages. Yet it is in
that first section that the work is at its most interesting.
The chapter on the famine in particular is of such
quality - Curtis without overtly trying constructs
an elaborate and persuasive refutation of more revisionist
works on the period - that the reader is tempted to
scream out in protest that it should have been extended
by yet another chapter. Throughout the remainder of
the book my thoughts kept drifting back to those pages.
compelling theme of the book is the attempt by the
author to write women back into the history pages.
The roles of Anna Wheeler, friend of William Thompson,
and Anna Parnell, sister of Charles Stuart Parnell,
are particularly illuminated. In this respect The
Cause of Ireland is a valuable counterbalance
to other works in nationalist historiography, most
notably Questions of History which managed not to
mention women at all.
in general will appreciate the book. It will rank
on a par with Farrell's The Orange State.
Equally so, it will be met with the disdain provoked
by Farrell's elsewhere. Republicans in particular
will feel vindicated but not the Catholic clergy.
The following passage quoted from Charles Kickham
confirming for the former that the criticisms of the
latter are timeless and without any substantive or
when priests turn the altar into a platform; when
it is pronounced a ''mortal sin'' to read the
Irish People; a ''mortal sin'' even to wish that
Ireland should be free; when priests actually
call upon the people to turn informers ...
perhaps even more relevant to the republican position
of today is the comment made in London in 1921 by
Charlotte Despard: 'Let the great heart of England
respond to the great heart of Ireland and then there
would be peace'.
in a particular tradition this book is unlikely to
reach many beyond it. But its life span will survive
many of those that have.
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