I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized The Coast of Bohemia

The Coast of Bohemia

Maurice Earls
It is a pity that the many recently published ‑ and frequently groundbreaking ‑ commentaries on the 1912-22 period in Ireland show such little interest in the significant number of European countries whose pasts were broadly similar to our own. The omission is particularly unfortunate because the current explosion of historical writing will probably shape our understanding of the revolutionary period for decades to come and, if present patterns are maintained, we will lose the valuable and possibly transformative perspective which could be gained from comparison with others who edged towards independence over the same period. Actually, the comparative possibilities go further back than the early twentieth century and have cultural and religious dimensions in addition to the political, as I hope to suggest by taking a brief look at the Czech experience in the light of our own. But first it is worth looking at what appears to be a growing disengagement in areas of Irish culture from the traditional nationalist account of Irish history. One result of living behind the wall of large states that stand between us and central Europe is that there is a tendency to see our history as somewhat unusual. Irish history is certainly very different from British, Dutch, French and Spanish imperial history but much less unusual if one looks east and beyond the historical patterns of western Europe. Interestingly, in the nineteenth century, Irish political discourse showed considerable awareness of central Europe and its similarities with Ireland. However, we appear to have lost this awareness as the twentieth century progressed, a loss which perhaps followed from the ebbing of our nationalist passions and, of course, the pervasive cold war narrative which tended to displace everything which preceded it. The tendency to see our history as unusual fed into a sort of ideological embarrassment which could be found on both the right and the left over the last thirty years. The left was irritated by what it regarded as “old nonsense” getting in the way of standard class politics; and the right by the same “old nonsense” getting in the way of the country becoming a good place in which to do business. The struggle between these contending versions of modernisation was decisively won by the right and the values of pro-market globalisers now form the everyday and somewhat incongruous backdrop to the decade of commemorations. Today’s dominant universalists cannot by definition attach…

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