Charles O’Conor of Ballanagare

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Charles O’Conor, a Catholic antiquarian in County Roscommon, saw the potential of print to disseminate a more accurate and flattering view of Ireland and thereby to swing opinion, in Britain and continental Europe, towards a relaxation of the notorious penal laws. He was probably unequalled in his competence to decipher and interpret Gaelic manuscripts. At the same time, he had a lively appreciation of literary techniques and the latest historiographical trends, setting the learning of érudits alongside the sweep of the philosophical. Both approaches were needed to construct accounts of Ireland that would dispel the prevailing myths and libels. O’Conor did not eschew the ephemeral and didactic, combining skill in these genres with his recondite scholarship.

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