Ireland: A Concise History from the Twelfth Century to the Present Day, by Paul Johnson ★★★
I had this book sitting on my shelves for years, and finally got around to reading it. Ireland: the Emerald Island, the land of pots of gold and Leprechauns, of St. Patrick, of fields of green as far as the eye could see. What more could a person want? Truth be told, Ireland has been anything but a land of peace and prosperity. The British originally invaded Ireland in the 12th century and found there to be barbaric, savage conditions among the Irish. Any attempt since then for the Brits to bring law and order and civility to the Island has been thwarted. The Brits certainly were never saints toward their treatment of the native Irish, and many of their decisions only brought increased sorrow to the Irish. But, whether it be by allowing the Irish relative freedom or ruling with an iron fist, peace has been wanting on the Island. Much has been the fault of the Irish; whether it be sectarian or religious issues, the island has been rent with the clash of differing ideologies, whether it be the Protestant vs Catholic clash, or the amount of tolerance for the British ruling their Island, discord among the Irish has always been the prevailing theme. Natural calamities, such as the potato blight, only contributed to the pathetic state of the inhabitants of this island. Ireland has served best at exporting its population to other countries, such as Canada and the United States. Johnson ends the book in the early 1990s (when the book was published) with a glimmer of hope. Sadly, based on Irish history, this glimmer is probably wishful and illusory. I can only hope that Johnson is correct in his optimism.
I’ve read many of Paul Johnson’s books, and have rated them as 4-star and 5-star books. He is an excellent author and historian who can hold your interest. This book assumed better than a cursory knowledge of Ireland, and so a modest amount was missed as to what he was talking about. Johnson, being Catholic, did a fair job of hiding that from the reader; still, it is impossible to have a neutral, unbiased opinion regarding the disaster that we call Ireland. This book is very much worth reading, though I hope that the prospective author is a bit more informed as to the history of Ireland than I was.