Inclement outlook

Ruán O’Donnell reviews Weather and Warfare, a climatic history of the 1798 Rebellion by John Tyrrell, The Collins Press £9.99

WEATHER AND WARFARE by University College Cork geographer John Tyrrell is perhaps the most eccentric volume on the events in Ireland during the 1798 rebellion.

Tyrrell has painstakingly cross-referenced records of weather conditions with events on the ground with a view to determining the effects of climate on historical processes. That he sustains his novel interpretation through 182 pages of well-illustrated text is astonishing.

While weather, good or bad, was hardly a major motivational factor for the highly-politicised United Irishmen who commenced the rebellion in May 1798, it stands to reason that the exceptionally wet conditions which prevailed in parts of Ireland that summer had an effect on their morale, mobility and health.

The naval aspect is particularly original and Tyrrell’s method of matching memoirs, narratives and contemporary campaign documents with scientifically verifiable meteorological data is compelling. There are no great surprises in terms of how the rebellion was prosecuted and quelled, although Weather and Warfare demonstrates time after time how natural circumstances beyond the control of all protagonists helped determine the outcome of significant phases of the struggle.

It is, furthermore, one of the most lucid, innovative and succinct accounts of the rebellion.

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