Bradshaw, Brendan, 'And So Began the Irish Nation': Nationality, National Consciousness and Nationalism in Pre-Modern Ireland

By Hall, Dianne | Parergon, July 2016 | Go to article overview

Bradshaw, Brendan, 'And So Began the Irish Nation': Nationality, National Consciousness and Nationalism in Pre-Modern Ireland


Hall, Dianne, Parergon


Bradshaw, Brendan, 'Andso began the Irish Nation': Nationality, National Consciousness and Nationalism in Pre-Modern Ireland, Farnham, Ashgate, 2015; hardback; pp. xvii, 318; R.R.P. 75.00 [pounds sterling]; ISBN 9781472442567.

Ireland, both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, is a place where histories of the medieval and early modern periods have continued to resonate in public and political consciousness. For Irish nationalists, heroic if doomed events such as the Kildare Rebellion, Nine Years War, and the Flight of the Earls, have been subjects of modern novels, plays, stories, and books; Protestant unionists and loyalists cling with grim determination to the treachery of the 1641 rebellion and the triumphs of the Williamite wars. The struggles for Irish independence in the twentieth century shaped many of the questions historians asked of the medieval and early modern period, particularly during the latter third of the twentieth century. One of the key historians of early modern Ireland during this time is Brendan Bradshaw, who throughout his career has engaged with keen scholarly precision in debates over nationalism and Irish political and religious identity. 'And so began the Irish nation' is at once a collection of his essays--many long out of print--and a sustained argument for continuing a search for the kernels of 'nationalist' thought and feeling in the early modern era rather than in the later eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

For historians of Ireland, Bradshaw is a familiar name. His highly influential and much-debated article, 'Nationalism and Historical Scholarship in Modern Ireland', appeared in 1989. In this widely cited article, he argued that the so-called 'value-free' history written from the 1930s in Ireland emphasised a detached, scientific view of history removed from present political reality and public engagement. He pleaded for a return to history that included the pain and horror of war and dispossession rather than airbrushing them out with dry historical platitudes. His arguments sparked a storm of controversy: articles were written, conferences organised, and reputations were under fire in what became known as the 'revisionist' debates. These storms have largely passed now, with a new generation of historians using the undercurrents of the 'revisionism' controversy as a backdrop to explorations of the messy ambiguities of premodern political and social thought and experiences.

In 'And so began the Irish nation', Bradshaw reprints important articles and then frames them with a lengthy new piece, 'Nationality, National Consciousness and Nationalism in Pre-modern Ireland'. This long piece both links the earlier articles and outlines a distillation of his long engagement with ideas on the origins of Irish nationalism. …

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