January 20, 2013
The Story of Ireland: A History of the Irish People by Neil Hegarty
The Story of Ireland takes the reader through Ireland's history back to when the Christian religion first came into the country (and the story of St. Patrick) to modern times detailing the bombings and civil strife that accompanied Irish politics for many years. In between it covers the rule of Ireland by England, and it's many tries at having home rule. It details the tension between the Catholic church and that of the Protestants, a strife that has encompassed many United Kingdom countries throughout their history. And it also says a little bit on the famines that hurt the population of Ireland.
The majority of the people talked about in this book are those that had some political standing or rule over Ireland. The average person in Ireland is not referred to much unless discussing the famines. So because this book features the people active in religion and politics, the storyline does much the same. The result is that despite the title saying this is a History of the Irish People, it's more a book of the history of politics that effected the Irish people. I'm not saying this to criticize the book, but more that I expected to learn about daily lives of people to a greater extent than I did with this book.
There's a huge period of history that's covered here and it's done quite well. For having to put all that detail into a small place, Hegarty is able to do it in a way that is readable, yet still interesting. I learned much more about the history of Ireland than I ever knew before. Especially the turmoil that has taken place in the last century that I never would have suspected. I also enjoyed reading about the real St. Patrick and will try to remember the facts about him while drinking green beer this March. When going deep into politics it is hard to remember who's who as so many names are mentioned, but that would be my only complaint with the writing. There is a nice timeline section in the back as well as a notes section.
A very nice, concise look at the history of Ireland. If you've ever been interested in Irish politics or the way religion has impacted the country, this would be a good read. While not quite textbook detailed, it still provides a lot of information for the standard reader.
The Story of Ireland