History Ireland 100

Published in Editorial, Issue 6 (November/December 2013), Volume 21

Welcome to the 100th issue of History Ireland. Earlier in the year we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of its foundation in spring 1993 and with this November/December issue we have completed 21 volumes, so we’ve ‘come of age’.

Much has changed over that period. For starters there is no longer a war going on in Northern Ireland, a conflict that undoubtedly had a distorting effect on the study of Irish history. But the current power-sharing dispensation, painstakingly put together over years of protracted negotiation, holds its own dangers. As Tom Dunne cautioned in these pages (HI 21.1, Jan./Feb. 2013, Platform) in relation to the ongoing ‘decade of centenaries’ in the North, ‘it seems there will be continued ghettoisation of the past to match that of today’s Belfast communities, each unchallenged comfort zone given a vacuous “parity of esteem” and fitted into another superficial “shared history”’.

Within a few years of 1993 the Celtic Tiger would be roaring against the backdrop of a Riverdance soundtrack. In the euphoria there was an irresistible urge to see this as the inevitable ‘happy ending’ of the Irish historical narrative (for the South at least), a sort of Irish version of Fukuyama’s The end of history. Now we are faced with the sobering reality that in the longue durée of Irish history crisis is the norm. But is that inevitable? Setting aside the crass consumerism of the Tiger years, they also unlocked a certain positive spirit and vitality that, if revived, give cause for optimism for the future.

The other great change since our foundation is the revolution in information technology. This presents both opportunities and challenges. A huge amount of material (e.g. the 1901 and 1911 censuses, the 1641 Depositions) is now available on-line (often for free); digitisation has revolutionised magazine production in terms of both lower costs and higher quality. On the other hand, on-line publishing puts the printed word under pressure. We have tracked these developments with the ongoing upgrading of our website but—call me old-fashioned—it can never fully replace the tactile experience of opening the latest copy of the magazine.

One thing hasn’t changed over 21 years—History Ireland has never been in receipt of state or institutional subvention, a matter of some lamentation in the early days. But looking back it was just as well: what’s given can just as easily be taken away—especially in a time of austerity such as this. While we are grateful for the support of our advertisers, it is on you, the readers, that we overwhelmingly rely. So here’s to another 100 issues of the magazine . . . and don’t forget to renew that sub!

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