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Bitter Freedom: Ireland in a Revolutionary World

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Bitter Freedom: Ireland in a Revolutionary World.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Maurice Walsh(Author)

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The Irish Revolution has long been mythologized in American culture but seldom understood. Too often, the story of Irish independence and its grinding aftermath in the early part of the twentieth century has been told only within a parochial Anglo-Irish context. Now, in the critically acclaimed Bitter Freedom, Maurice Walsh, with "a novelist's eye for detailing lives in extremis" (Feargal Keane, Prospect), places revolutionary Ireland within the panorama of nationalist movements born out of World War I.

Beginning with the Easter Rising of 1916, Bitter Freedom follows through from the War of Independence to the end of the post-partition civil war in 1924. Walsh renders a history of insurrection, treaty, partition, and civil war in a way that is both compelling and original. Breaking out this history from reductionist, uplifting narratives shrouded in misguided sentiment and romantic falsification, the author provides a gritty, blow-by-blow account of the conflict, from ambushes of soldiers and the swaggering brutality of the Black and Tan militias to city streets raked by sniper fire, police assassinations, and their terrible reprisals; Bitter Freedom provides a kaleidoscopic portrait of the human face of the conflict. Walsh also weaves surprising threads into the story of Irish independence such as jazz, American movies, and psychoanalysis, examining the broader cultural environment of emerging modernity in the early twentieth century, and he shows how Irish nationalism was shaped by a world brimming with revolutionary potential defined by the twin poles of Woodrow Wilson in America and Vladimir Lenin in Russia.

In this "invigorating account" (Spectator), Walsh demonstrates how this national revolution, which captured worldwide attention from India to Argentina, was itself profoundly shaped by international events. Bitter Freedom is "the most vivid and dramatic account of this epoch to date" (Literary Review).

Bitter Freedomis a wonderfully involving work: vividly written, with a storyteller s eye for human detail and a scholar s sense of broader and deeper movements over time. Anyone interested in Irish history will find the book riveting. --Joseph O Connor, author of Star of the Sea"Maurice Walsh is a gifted writer with a novelist s eye for the illuminating detail of everyday lives in extremis The great strength of Walsh s book is its breadth of vision. His book challenges parochial tendencies in the revolutionary story."Maurice Walsh s invigorating account of the revolution and its immediate aftermath starts after the Rising, and firmly locates the Irish crisis in the postwar Europe described by Thomas Masaryk as a laboratory atop a vast graveyard . Vivid and incisive, his approach highlights discontinuities and contradictions among the revolutionaries."Maurice Walsh s book is the most vivid and dramatic account of this epoch to date: if you want to feel the full horror of Bloody Sunday in Dublin and the sacking of Balbriggan by the Black and Tans, this is the place to look."The great strength of this compelling book is that it manages to make large and abstract arguments while conveying a sense of the lived experience of the Irish revolution. With one hand, Maurice Walsh widens his lens, while simultaneously he applies a magnifying glass with the other. The result of this dexterity is an arresting set of Big Pictures interspersed with a sequence of vivid miniatures. Indeed, the particular originality of the work lies in the striking conjunction of images.Bitter Freedomis a wonderfully involving work: vividly written, with a storyteller s eye for human detail and a scholar s sense of broader and deeper movements over time. Anyone interested in Irish history will find the book riveting. --Joseph O Connor, author of Star of the Sea"Bitter Freedom is a wonderfully involving work: vividly written, with a storyteller's eye for human detail and a scholar's sense of broader and deeper movements over time. Anyone interested in Irish history will find the book riveting. --Joseph O'Connor, author of Star of the SeaMaurice Walsh is a gifted writer with a novelist's eye for the illuminating detail of everyday lives in extremis...The great strength of Walsh's book is its breadth of vision. His book challenges parochial tendencies in the revolutionary story.Maurice Walsh's invigorating account of the revolution and its immediate aftermath starts after the Rising, and firmly locates the Irish crisis in the postwar Europe described by Thomas Masaryk as 'a laboratory atop a vast graveyard'. Vivid and incisive, his approach highlights discontinuities and contradictions among the revolutionaries.Maurice Walsh's book is the most vivid and dramatic account of this epoch to date: if you want to feel the full horror of Bloody Sunday in Dublin and the 'sacking' of Balbriggan by the Black and Tans, this is the place to look.

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Book details

  • PDF | 544 pages
  • Maurice Walsh(Author)
  • Liveright (1 Aug. 2017)
  • English
  • 8
  • History

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Review Text

  • By Stephen Martin on 6 June 2015

    I grew up in London in an Irish Catholic family in the 1970s. I learned nothing at school about Ireland's battle for independence, and the civil war that followed, but absorbed the legend through rebel songs. Until recently, I put the school blackout down to Britain's embarrassed reluctance to discuss the one that got away. Now that my own children are studying history for GCSE, it seems more likely that compared to the Treaty of Versailles, German hyperinflation and the rise of Hitler and the Great Depression, a confusing, seemingly inconclusive war in which the victims of the worst atrocities were counted in low double-digits - compare that to what is happening across the Middle East today - just doesn't seize the attention of teachers and students. On the other hand, while the rebel songs lauded the "Mauser music" of the bold rebels who fought the Crown, and lamented the martyrdom of those got caught, they couldn't explain why the trench-coated rebels were defeated by their own countrymen in the service of the partitioned state, led by former comrades-in-arms, and why so much of the population seemed to accept the ferocity of the measures used against them.Walsh's splendid book begins with the insurrection of 1916 and follows through to the eventual collapse of the anti-treaty resistance in 1923-24. He studies it from the top down, in the negotiations between Sinn Fein's leadership and the British cabinet, through local records in describing disorder and violence across rural Ireland, and through the diaries of observers on the ground. He brings elements into the history which I had not considered before, tying the insurrectionary movement with the revolutionary spirit of the age; strikes are led by Soviets, who are supported by local priests. Walsh devotes a lot of attention to people who get no mention in the rebel songs, the officers of the Royal Irish Constabulary, isolated from the communities they were supposed to police, but largely without the passion for their cause of their IRA opponents, they were superseded by the more zealous auxiliaries and discarded by the successor state. The descriptions of De Valera on tour in the US are fascinating, supported by Irish-Americans but barracked and harassed by returned servicemen for disloyalty to America's wartime ally. He records his diarists raising funds for nationalists prisoners, stopping to watch a gunfight in the city, then heading off to play tennis or watch a film. Poor Battling Siki, the French-African Light-Heavyweight champion robbed of his title in Dublin, on St Patrick's Day 1923, despite the attempts of the IRA to bomb the venue, deserves his own history.The second section of the book, covering the post-Treaty Civil War, contains the bigger mysteries. How did the anti-treaty forces fail, when they had the firepower on their side? Why were young rebels like Kevin O'Higgins, a general and minister in his early 30s, so ruthless in their suppression, and why were his actions supported so readily by the mass of the population? I feel Walsh struggles a little here; like the proverbial "shy Tories", the champions of the Treaty do not seem to have left quotable diaries - their motivations seem to be a puzzle for Walsh's diarists too. They speak to us indirectly, through speeches or reported recollections of others. The coercive power of the Irish church, so mighty even 25 years ago, is now beyond our ability to reimagine now in our secular age when the church is an object of ridicule. I also think that having described the excitement raised by the potential of revolution in the immediate aftermath of the Russian Revolution and the end of the First World War, the feelings of dread that it inspired five years later might have been influential in the acceptance of reaction. Not long after, Ireland would send three times more to fight for Franco than joined the International Brigades.Walsh's book ends, and the fog descends again. Within a decade, De Valera was back in power, but what were the consequences for the Treaty's champions, and what were the frictions in the anti-Treaty camp caused by his compromise to regain power? We need another book!

  • By wordsmith44 on 28 January 2016

    An immensely readable account of an important yet overlooked time in the history of these islands. The author has managed asensibly detached tone about a period which has seen more than its share of hyperbole and emotive excess. A small part ofthe account of the original "Bloody Sunday" follows previous tellings but is no longer accurate, having been recently disprovedvia specific family research. It is hoped that this will made available to the publisher/author in due course.But for anyone interested in the subject, this is a valuable addition to the numerous studies available - and makes a fineintroduction to anyone new to it.

  • By Loz on 14 December 2016

    Five stars isn't enough for this superb book.

  • By The Brother on 9 June 2015

    I was led to this by a couple of great reviews - Roy Foster in the Spectator, Alvin Jackson in the Tablet - and it really is good. Most histories of what used to be called the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Civil War focus on the military aspects of the conflict, the ambushes and atrocities, and Walsh certainly doesn't neglect these events, but what lifts his book onto a different level is the way he sets what was happening in Ireland in the context of a whole world in turmoil. The war had changed people's expectations, and accelerated modernisation everywhere. Walsh is brilliant at showing how Irish people were influenced by developments in Europe and America, by jazz and the movies, and fascinated by the latest cultural and political movements. Their hopes were stifled by the 'bitter freedom' of the book's title, the harsh reality of an austere and ultra-Catholic independent Ireland, but as a portrait of the vibrant revolutionary period this is unbeatable. And it is extremely well written, a very compelling narrative.

  • By Active Radio on 3 September 2017

    Well written and very readable account of 1920s Ireland with an original perspective. Author has a racy journalistic style but never loses sight of his academic theme of the wider global context. (This raises the work well above the efforts of other journos attempting the same genre like Max Hastings or Andrew Marr.) In short this is exemplary popular history writing.

  • By Neil Johnston on 12 May 2015

    Maurice Walsh has produced a seminal account of the period leading up to the Irish civil war. He de-emotionalises a subject that has been shrouded in misguided sentiment and romantic falsification and there is much to be learned about the awful realities governing 20th century revolutionary consciousness in the reading of it. The book is a massive reclamation of a slice of international history epitomised by the empty promise of American charisma and the awful truth of the epi-genetics of human savagery in a European context that lead eventually to the holocaust. The book exposes the blind arrogance of a bumbling English empire stumbling towards its demise through the lens of Irish nationalism and its panoramic influence on the political foundations of the 20th century. Bitter Freedom is a must read book.


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