Published in Book Reviews, Issue 1 (Spring 2004), Reviews, Volume 12

They say that the only thing worse than a bad review is no review at all. Unfortunately, where History Ireland is concerned, this has been the case with many of the books sent to us for review by publishers. In 2003, for example, over 130 books were submitted but only 27 were reviewed. And that’s without taking into account the many books not sent to us (what Donald Rumsfeld might term the ‘unknown unknowns’). Hence the need for ‘Bookworm’ to keep our readers up to date on books not reviewed but worthy of mention.

A trend in recent years has been the republication of standard works that have stood the test of time. James Lydon’s 1972 The lordship of Ireland in the Middle Ages (256pp, E65, hb, ISBN 1856827366; E24.95, pb, ISBN 1851827374) has been republished by Four Courts as part of their History Classics series. Lilliput has republished a slightly amended and expanded version of K.W. Nicholls’s 1972 Gaelic and Gaelicized Ireland in the Middle Ages (238pp, E13.99, pb, ISBN 1843510030). Taken together, the two books provide a comprehensive introduction to the period.

A related trend has been the republication of seminal books or pamphlets from the past. Cork University Press has this year completed its Irish Narratives series, edited by David Fitzpatrick, with the publication of Young Irelander abroad: the diary of Charles Hart, edited by Brendan Ó Cathaoir (100pp, E15, pb, ISBN 1859183603), From Dublin Castle to Stormont: the memoirs of Andrew Philip Magill, 1913–1925, edited by Charles W. Magill (93pp, E15, pb, ISBN 1859183441), and Scholar bishop: the recollections and diary of Narcissus Marsh, 1638–1696, edited by Raymond Gillespie (100pp, E15, pb, ISBN 1859183387). University College Dublin Press, meanwhile, has continued its ongoing Classics of Irish History series, edited by Tom Garvin, with the publication of Oliver MacDonagh’s Ireland: the Union and its aftermath, introduced by W.J. McCormack (209pp, E18, pb, ISBN 1900621819), Thomas Fennell’s The Royal Irish Constabulary, edited by Rosemary Farrell (180pp, E18, pb, ISBN 1904558003), William McComb’s The repealer repulsed, edited by Patrick Maume (298pp, E23, pb, ISBN 1900621975), Michael Davitt’s Jottings in solitary, edited by Carla King (286pp, E21.50, pb, ISBN 1900621916), and Arthur Griffith’s The resurrection of Hungary, introduced by Patrick Murray (170pp, E18, pb, ISBN 1900621967).

Another publication that is fast becoming a ‘classic’, but of a different type, is Four Courts’ Directory of Irish archives, edited by Seamus Helferty and Raymond Refaussé (217pp, E45, hb, ISBN 1851827781; E19.95, pb, ISBN 185182779X). This updated (fourth) edition now has entries on over 250 repositories and organisations (up from 155 in the first, 1988, edition), North and South. Apart from the indispensable nature of the contents for researchers, the short introduction is a useful overview (and critique) of the state of archive-keeping in Ireland.

While feminists have complained (with justification) that women have been written out of history, this is surely no longer the case if the quantity (and quality) of women’s history publications is anything to go by. Dianne Hall’s ground-breaking Women and the church in medieval Ireland c.1140–1540 (Four Courts, 252pp, E50, hb, ISBN 1851826564) investigates medieval nunneries in Ireland, their personnel, patrons, buildings and estates, and their strategies for ensuring the productivity of their resources. She also contributes an essay to Irish women’s history, a collection edited by Alan Hayes and Diane Urquart (Irish Academic Press, 240pp, E22.50, pb, ISBN 0716527162), which coincides with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the pioneering Women in Irish society: the historical dimension, edited by Donnchadh Ó Corráin and Margaret MacCurtain (who provides the foreword to the latest collection). Nellie Ó Cléirigh’s self-published Hardship & high living: Irish women’s lives 1808–1923 (Portobello, 228pp, pb, ISBN 0951924915) deals with an eclectic and diverse selection of women—an 1808 tourist in Connemara, a surgeon’s wife, an emigrant to America, workhouse women, lacemakers and Sisters of Mercy in the Crimea, amongst others.

Amongst more standard monographs (both from Four Courts) is James Kelly’s Sir Edward Newenham MP 1734–1814: defender of the Protestant constitution (318pp, E55, hb, ISBN 1851827528) and Pól Ó Dochartaigh’s Germans, Celts and nationalism: Julius Pokorny 1887–1970 (185pp, E45, hb, ISBN 1851827692). History Ireland readers may recall his ‘ “Professor Pokorny of Vienna”—Austrian Catholic, German nationalist, Celtic professor and “Jew” ’ (8.1, Spring 2000). If you were stimulated by Ewan Morris’s article on the coinage debate of 1928 in this issue then check out Edward Colgan’s For want of good money: the story of Ireland’s coinage (Wordwell, 209pp, E35, hb, ISBN 1869857615), which traces the history of Irish coinage from Viking times.

Where local history is concerned it seems that all roads lead to NUI, Maynooth. Four Courts have just published numbers 47–52 in the Maynooth Studies in Local History series (general editor Raymond Gillespie)—John Joseph Conwell’s A Galway landlord during the Great Famine: Ulick John de Burgh, first marquis of Clanricarde (64pp, E9.95, pb, ISBN 1851827625), Joe Clarke’s Christopher Dillon Bellew and his Galway estates, 1763–1826 (64pp, E9.95, pb, ISBN 1851827633), Donnacha Seán Lucey’s The Irish National League in Dingle, County Kerry, 1885–1892 (62pp, E9.95, pb, ISBN 185182765X), Rob Goodbody’s Sir Charles Domvile and his Shankill estate, County Dublin, 1857–1871 (64pp, E9.95, pb, ISBN 1851827617), Gerardine Candon’s Headford, County Galway, 1775–1901 (64pp, E9.95, pb, ISBN 1851827641) and Ronan Gallagher’s Violence and nationalist politics in Derry City, 1920–1923 (72pp, E9.95, pb, ISBN 1851827609)—as well as a single volume Irish villages: studies in local history, edited by Karina Holton, Liam Clarke and Brian Ó Dálaigh (326pp, E55, hb, ISBN 1851827668). And for those labouring under the illusion that local history has no relevance for the big city, the latest in the Maynooth Historical Studies (general editor Raymond Gillespie—where does he find the time?) is Séamas Ó Maitiú’s Dublin’s suburban towns 1834–1930 (256pp, E19.95, pb, ISBN 1851827234). History Ireland readers may recall his article on Donnybrook Fair.

Finally, Four Courts have also published the latest (no. 6) in the Maynooth Research Guides for Irish Local History (general editor Mary Ann Lyons), E. Margaret Crawford’s Counting the people: a survey of the Irish censuses, 1813–1911 (154pp, E19.95, pb, ISBN 1851826734).

Four Courts have not completely monopolised the publishing of local history, however. Gill & Macmillan have published four county histories—Clare by Seán Spellissy (156pp, E11.99, pb, ISBN 0717134601), Wexford by Nicholas Furlong (168pp, E11.99, pb, ISBN 071713461X), Wicklow by Arthur Flynn (166pp, E11.99, pb, ISBN 0717134857) and Kildare by Padraic O’Farrell (184pp, E11.99, pb, ISBN 0717134628).
The last word must go to Peter Carr’s Portavo: an Irish townland and its people (White Row Press, 339pp, £18, pb, ISBN 1870132114). The blurb on the back cover modestly claims that it is ‘quite possibly the most intensive study of a townland [there are 61,000 of them in Ireland!] ever attempted’. Lavishly illustrated, this is not so much a micro-study as a subatomic one! But if you think it tells you all you need to know about this single townland on the Ards Peninsula, Co. Down, you’d be wrong: this is only part one (earliest times to 1844)! Watch this space!


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