Book reviews in brief (June/July 2002 edition)

FIRST PUBLISHED in 1967, The Course of Irish History (Mercier Press in association with RTÉ, £12.60 pbk), is regarded by some as the definitive general history of Ireland -- though these days there are a number of contenders for the title. Illustrated throughout, the book’s 24 chapters cover the full sweep of Irish history from prehistory through to the modern period.

In addition to Moody and Martin, contributors include Liam de Poar, Richard English, John H Andrews, Tomás Ó Fiaich, Patrick Lynch, Donal McCartney and Brian Ó Cuív.

The main reason for a new edition at this point appears to be the need to include up to date material on the period between 1995 and 2001.

This is fulfilled by Dermot Keogh who has authored a new chapter encompassing the Good Friday agreement, devolution, the ongoing trials and tribulations of the Irish peace process and the Irish people’s rejection of the Nice treaty.

W&R Jacob: celebrating 150 years of Irish biscuit making by Séamas Ó Maitiú (Woodfield Press £11.50 pbk ) is a fascinating and highly-readable account of the development of the kind of paternalistic capitalism associated with entrepreneurs of the Quaker faith.

However W&R Jacob’s paternalism had another less palatable side when faced with the workforce’s agitation for better wages and the threat of strike action, as was the case in the bitter dispute between trade unionists and the employers in 1913.

As labour leader James Connolly wrote just weeks before the 1916 rising: “One of the most malignant firms upon the side of the employers was the firm of Messrs W & R Jacob. No firm engaged in the dispute touched as low a depth of meanness as did this firm; so vilely used their power when the fight was over.”

Ironically, the factory was also to play a key role in that event too when it was occupied around 150 rebels under the command of Thomas McDonagh. Ó Maitiú’s account, which is illustrated throughout, includes a number of interesting relating to these turbulent times as well as other more sedate periods in the rise and rise of W&R Jacob to the position of one of Ireland’s most prominent industrial concerns.

New paperback editions of Gerry Adams’ account of life as an internee in the Long Kesh camp (Cage Eleven) and a collection of short stories (The Street and other stories) have recently been republished by Brandon (£7.99 pbk each).

Originally published in 1990 Cage Eleven is interesting as an account of a key period in the development of one of the most important political figures in Ireland today. It is also significant as an example of Adams’ growing skills as a writer -- something he was able to build on two years later with the publication in 1992 of The Street and other stories. As these two reissues ably demonstrate, Adams is as accomplished as a writer as he is astute as a politician.

Tales of political crisis, bribery, corruption leading to resignations and calls for a tribunal of enquiry have become all too frequent in recent years -- as even casual followers of Irish current affairs can testify.

All of this and more can be found in 2RN and the Origins of Irish Radio (Richard Pine, Four Courts, £14.95 pbk), which details the establishment of national radio in Ireland.

The book introduces readers for the first time to an early episode in the history of the Free State that featured many of its most colourful and controversial characters, and precipitated everything from political crises and resignations to suicide.

<< | Up | >>

This document was last modified by David Granville on 2002-10-02 15:10:50.
Connolly Association, c/o RMT, Unity House, 39 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD
Copyright © 2002 Connolly Publications Ltd