I thought I’d make use of the new forum and try and deal a bit with historiography.
While I would agree that historical analysis in Ireland has been marked with a perverse one-sidedness, you probably should not let it get to you to the extent that it evidently does. And I somehow doubt that the mould into which you would like to pour Irish history is an improvement.Originally Posted by merle haggard (from [url=http://www.politics.ie/viewtopic.php?p=417717&highlight=#417717
Historical analysis becomes warped by the gravitational pull of money. Hence noblemen, the Church and the aristocracy enjoyed an immortality denied to the vast swaths of mankind. The rise of the state in the nineteenth century in turn gave rise to a new history, one which supported nation building. Historians feted with state money began encouraging statewide identities. And it is towards this end that Irish history became skewed.
The fledgling state required bolstering against those who sought to destroy it, and a rather flagrant contradiction was opened up whereby revolutionaries before 1921 were good and revolutionaries after 1921 were bad. Sometimes, allowances were made for those who continued the “struggle” up to 1926 for obvious reasons. Indeed, “retrospective justification” continues in vogue for some people- though I really don’t think it stands up to scrutiny. Revisionism will be necessary to iron out these contradictions and that is a worthy effort; one that will lead to historians landing themselves on all sorts of different sides to all sorts of different fences.
Ultimately, the entrance of modern thinking often taints historical analysis. Imagine different trends of thought as various coloured filters. For Europe, the major (or primary colours) would be classical, Christian and enlightenment thinking. Liberalism may constitute a fourth. To understand any aspect of say, the twentieth century, one would have to look at that aspect through each individual filter, and then in various combinations of filters, before a clear picture might be drawn. There is an inclination to just pile one filter upon another into a tower, and draw the resulting conclusion. Such sloppy analysis is lazy, at best inconsistent and at worst misleading. Your attack, especially when read in full, would suggest that you wish to leave the filter of green* nationalism over Irish history never to be removed under any circumstance. To do so would leave numerous truths hidden from view. I would of course balance that by saying that the filter of green nationalism must be used to understand Irish history, but it must be removed in places also.
As an example, I shall take Irish neutrality during World War II (I don’t want to address 1916, as it proves divisive and would drag this discussion way off course) and neo-conservative thinking. Initially, Eamon de Valera’s role in protecting Irish neutrality was seen as his greatest achievement. But, in more recent times, he has been castigated for it and Irish neutrality became synonymous with cowardice. I feel this is because a neo-conservative filter was added by certain commentators, and though this revealed certain aspects, it distorted the picture as a whole. Anyone who applied a rigorous historiographical approach, I believe, would arrive at the conclusion that Irish neutrality was indeed important and that protecting it was no mean feat.
But of course, applying such a neutral agenda to historical study renders it- to some degree- rudderless. It at least removes the power of steering from any institution. So, historians would be forced to ask themselves what they are pursuing. And the state seeing that nation building, the product of a nationalist filter, was no longer a priority would be forced to ask itself why funding history departments is worth it.
*- I use the word green here as I did not really know what to call it. I suppose one could alternatively use fenian either. Whatever label one might use, I am referring to that branch of Irish nationalism which is haughtily jingoistic, generally anti-British and quite willing to resort to (or justify) violence.
"But Jesus, said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house."- Mark 6:4Originally Posted by merle haggard