Bookworm

Published in Book Reviews, General, Issue 3 (May/June 2011), Reviews, Volume 19

BOOKWORM 1Fundamental discussions are currently taking place, North and South, on the nature of the respective education systems. In the South, new Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has hit the ground running with a proposal, first aired by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, for a forum to discuss ways and means of ending the Catholic Church’s near monopoly of primary school patronage. In the North, First Minister Peter Robinson has raised for discussion the ending of the de facto segregation of the education system, i.e. the issue of separate Catholic-run schools (is this the shape of a united Ireland to come?). In that light the re-publication of is timely. First published in 1984 but with an extra chapter bringing the story up to the present, it tells the story of the Kildare Place Society, originally the Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in Ireland, a pioneer of non-denominational education. With the setting up of the national school system in 1831, however, it lost its government funding and went into decline. In 1855 the Kildare Place model schools were taken over by the Church Education Society and in 1884 became the Church of Ireland Training College for national schoolteachers, a function it still fulfils today.Taking a different angle on Irish education is Michael C. Coleman’s American Indians, the Irish, and government schooling: a comparative study (University of Nebraska Press, 368pp, $29.95, ISBN 9780803224858). Although published three years ago, it has not, to my knowledge, been reviewed in Ireland, possibly because it was published in Nebraska and the author is based in Finland. ‘Drawing on autobiographies, government records, elementary school curricula . . . photographs and maps, Coleman [according to the dustjacket blurb] conveys a rich personal sense of what it was like to have been a pupil at a school where one’s language was not spoken and one’s culture erased.’ True . . . but only up to a point: by the time national schools were set up in Ireland in 1831, roughly half the population were already English-speakers. BOOKWORM 2A more appropriate comparison might be with Irish Travellers (whose special-needs teachers are currently being decimated by IMF-imposed slash-and-burn policies). Nevertheless, an original approach to the subject.And speaking of IMF-imposed austerity, God be with the days not so long ago when taxpayers’ money was being wasted on useless e-voting machines, politicians’ expenses and the stockpiling of unneeded H1N1 flu vaccine. It now seems likely that the 2009 ‘pandemic’ was a scam dreamed up by pharmaceutical companies. It was a scam that doubtless worked because of the strong folk memory of the devastating H1N1 flu pandemic of 1918–19, which may have killed as many as 100 million worldwide (see ‘Greatest killer of the twentieth century: the Great Flu of 1918–19’, https://www.historyireland.com //volumes/volume17/issue2/features/?id=114557). Caitriona Foley’s The last Irish plague: the Great Flu epidemic in Ireland 1918–19 (Irish Academic Press, 224pp, €19.95pb, ISBN 9780716531159) is the first book-length study of the Irish experience.There are several names familiar to HI readers in the seventeen reviews in the latest Irish Historical Studies (Vol. XXXVII, No. 146, November 2010, ISSN 0021214). Amongst the books reviewed are Michael Silvestri’s Ireland and India: nationalism, Empire and memory; Fearghal McGarry’s The Rising. Ireland: Easter 1916; William Kaut’s Ambushes and armour: the Irish rebellion, 1919–1921; and Daniel Leach’s Fugitive Ireland: European minority nationalists and Irish political asylum. Amongst the main articles, John Regan’s ‘Irish public histories as an historiographical problem’ is particularly provocative (but scholarly). From the off he cuts to the chase—‘It is now almost impossible to reflect upon the historical reputations of Eamon de Valera and Michael Collins without considering the recent war in Northern Ireland (c. 1969–97) and the challenges to Irish identities it has induced . . .’. What follows is a closely argued critique of revisionism—BOOKWORM 3but readers can judge for themselves.As our ‘countdown to 2016’ continues, Charlie McGuire’s Seán McLoughlin: Ireland’s forgotten revolutionary (Merlin Press, 186pp, £15.95, ISBN 9780850367058) profiles one of the lesser-known 1916 leaders—except to History Ireland readers, of course. See the author’s ‘Seán McLoughlin—the boy commandant of 1916’ (https://www.historyireland.com//volumes/volume14/issue2/features/?id=318) and ‘The strike that “never should have taken place”? The Inchicore rail dispute of 1924’ (https://www.historyireland.com//volumes/volume17 /issue2/features /?id=114559). A 1916-related publication that I doubt readers have come across is the ABEI [Associação Brasileira de Estudos Irlandeses] Journal: the Brazilian Journal of Irish Studies (No. 12, November 2010, ISSN 15180581). The current issue is dedicated to Roger Casement to mark the centenary (last year) of his first voyage to the Amazon.Celebrating 250 years of the New York St Patrick’s Day Parade by John T. Ridge and Lynn Mosher Bushnell (Quinnipiac University Press, 144pp, $49.95, ISBN 9780615373928) is a lavishly produced coffee-table book. I particularly liked the picture of Jewish Mayor Ed Koch hamming it up for the crowd at the 1986 parade in Aran sweater and flat cap. Nothing wrong with a bit of unashamed nostalgia, but for a more rigorous critique and analysis the place to have been was the History Ireland Hedge School in the National Library on 15 March 2011, ‘No God and two St Patricks: the national saint and the national holiday’. But don’t worry if you missed it: you can watch a video of proceedings by clicking on ‘Hedge School’ on our website (https://www.historyireland.com//hedge/).Another timely publication, given the impending visit of US President Obama, is Bernadette Whelan’s American government in Ireland, 1790–1913: a history of the US consular service (Manchester University Press, 299pp, £60,

BOOKWORM 4ISBN 9780719083013). Readers will recall her account in the first issue of this year (https://www.historyireland.com///volumes/?id=114958) of the 1879 visit of a former US president, Ulysses S. Grant.  HI

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