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Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

Crushing Democracy

Philip O’Connor
Probably no independence movement in history, anywhere, enjoyed the overwhelming democratic mandate of the First Dáil, which was suppressed by Britain. Yet curiously the meaning of that election and of its consequences continues to be raked over and disputed.
Jan 5, 2019, 11:42 AM

Care and Control

Joseph Harbison
A comprehensive new history of Ireland’s largest hospital gives an account of its medieval beginnings and development through a period when the sick, who were also very often the poor, represented a category who should be cared for, but who were also often perceived as a threat.
Jan 5, 2019, 11:21 AM

Dublin in the Wars

Padraig Yeates
Before 1914 recruitment to the British army from Belfast was often less than half that of Dublin, although the Northern city had a larger population. But Belfast was an industrial powerhouse, not a sleepy provincial backwater dependent on the production of beer and biscuits.
Dec 6, 2018, 15:37 PM

Man of Marble

Maurice Earls
From 1820 to 1850, the sculptor John Hogan’s most productive period, he was largely based in Rome. Yet despite living abroad he was without question, and especially in terms of his subject matter and patrons – chiefly the Irish bourgeoisie and Catholic church – an Irish artist.
Oct 2, 2018, 18:08 PM


John Swift
In the long Home Rule crisis of the second decade of the twentieth century, John Redmond, the leader of constitutional nationalism, counted too much on unreliable British allies. His rival, Edward Carson, was a more able tactician, more daring and decisive, and perhaps less unlucky.
Sep 2, 2018, 10:55 AM

Not So Very Different

Kevin Hjortshøj O’Rourke
There can at times be an attention-seeking particularism about Irish writing – look at us, we like to say, look how unique, and how very interesting, we are. When I was a boy, we were taught that post-independence Ireland was poor but uniquely virtuous. Today we are taught that it was poor and uniquely wicked. Both positions are misguided: we were never as different as people have made out. 
May 5, 2018, 13:06 PM

Talking Heads

Deirdre Serjeantson.
As recently as 1996, an English editor of an edition of a seventeenth century play wrote in a footnote to explain to students a puzzling reference that “the Irish were notoriously cruel and bloodthirsty”. This of course is very much a matter of perspective. Both sides in the sixteenth and seventeenth century conflict in Ireland used extreme violence. The Elizabethan English tended to see Irish beheadings as savagery; their own decapitations were simply an expression of due process.
May 5, 2018, 11:44 AM

Humanism Comes to Town

Toby Barnard
Many of the features of other European Renaissance cities were missing from Dublin: no vibrant centre of learning, only an attenuated court, little local printing. Yet traders, administrators, soldiers and clerics arrived from overseas, as did manuscripts and books.
May 5, 2018, 10:44 AM

Revolutionary Year

Matthew Kovac
A new anthology of essays on the year 1916 seeks to internationalise the study of the Easter Rising, often treated as a purely domestic matter, and to restore that year, long neglected in favour of Bolshevik 1917, to its proper place as the revolutionary hinge of twentieth century politics.
Apr 3, 2018, 13:17 PM

Instead of Blood

Ian Doherty
In Northern Ireland in 1972, 470 people were killed, 1,853 bombs were planted and 18,819 kilos of explosives found. Some thought a United Ireland was close, others a civil war. At the same time the Dublin and London governments were working diligently with moderate politicians for a settlement.
Mar 5, 2018, 12:51 PM


Seamus Deane
Two figures dominate in Breandán Mac Suibhne’s history of a Donegal community, one an informer, the other one of the hard-faced men who did well out of the Famine. Together they help ruin the community, transforming it into a world stripped of people and of communal ethics.
Mar 5, 2018, 12:43 PM

Fíon Spáinneach

Vincent Morley
The animosity between the smuggler Murtaí Óg Ó Súilleabháin and John Puxley, both of whom died violently in the 1750s, was once seen as symptomatic of wider societal divisions. But in fact Puxley, though employed as a revenue officer, had had a notable career in smuggling too.
Mar 5, 2018, 12:23 PM

Against Pure Wool

Maurice Earls
In the midst of the January Uprising of 1863 in Poland, a Dublin grocer, Patrick McCabe Fay, donated money to a fund in support of the Polish rebels, explaining that it was only right that the “Poland of the West” come to the aid of “her sister of the East”.
Feb 5, 2018, 14:38 PM

Kith and Kine

Gerard Murphy
A compendious work on the ostensibly obscure and specialist subject of the origins of cattle breeds manages to incorporate a good deal of fascinating human history over several millennia, recalling in the process the literary work of Herman Melville or WG Sebald.
Feb 3, 2018, 14:37 PM

Destined for Radicalism

Sheena Wilkinson
Hanna Sheehy Skeffington was a suffragette and a Sinn Féiner, and in that order. For her, national sovereignty did not overshadow other concerns and, unlike Constance Markievicz, she never considered female suffrage secondary to the struggle for Irish independence.
Feb 2, 2018, 15:29 PM

Making a History of the Homeplace

Breandán Mac Suibhne
An extract from ‘The End of Outrage’, an intimate history of a small southwest Donegal community around the time of the Famine which focuses not on the relations between the rich and the poor but between poor families themselves, land, inheritance and emigration.
Jan 8, 2018, 17:28 PM

The Long Fellow

Mary E Daly
During his later career, Eamon de Valera only invoked Ulster when it was politically expedient. His latest biographer notes that in 1921-22 he regarded the Irish Free State as a permanent arrangement and the Ulster settlement as temporary – though the reverse turned out to be the case.
Jan 8, 2018, 15:49 PM

The People’s Alfie

Tom Wall
Alfie Byrne was a public representative for more than 50 years, a member of both the House of Commons and Dáil Éireann, and lord mayor of Dublin ten times. He was hugely popular, yet perhaps as much in spite of as because of his Catholic, conservative and Anglophile politics.
Jan 8, 2018, 14:42 PM

The People’s Story

Fergus O’Ferrall
A comprehensive new volume of essays on Ireland’s social history since 1740 claims to offer a new interpretation of the country’s history. Certainly it contains much excellent and groundbreaking material, but it furnishes a starting point for interpretation rather than the finished article.
Jan 8, 2018, 13:49 PM

Behind the Facade

Cathal Moore
A posthumously published work by an eminent architect and architectural historian gives a valuable insight into the practices of building, the divisions of trades and the sourcing of materials in Ireland during the Georgian period.
Jan 8, 2018, 13:18 PM