From Publishers Weekly
Irish historian Bartlett doesn't dwell on fine details of battles, abuses, and catastrophes, but rather their effects on the anxious relations between English and Irish. In fact, in approaching this book, it's best if you have some background knowledge of the island. The English may have invaded Ireland in 1169 but they never truly conquered her. For 600 years Catholic, Protestant, and Scots Presbyterian worked together in their Sisyphean struggle to establish the rights of the Irish people. Attempts to sever the English yoke, violent and otherwise, were sporadic and poorly organized. The 1798 rebellion was the final straw for the English who, in 1800, passed the Act of Union, abolishing the already powerless Irish Parliament. The disestablishment of the Church of Ireland and elimination of its tithes in 1869 cemented the eternal enmity between Catholics and Protestants. To the now-unified Protestants, the cry of Home Rule paved a path to Catholic majority power. The partition of Ireland in 1919 took the struggle into its most desperate phase, with political, social, religious, and economic turmoil burdening the country throughout the 20th century. Even now, with the Celtic tiger licking some serious wounds, Ireland faces its future with nervous confidence. Bartlett delivers a clearly Republican perception of the island's history; those seeking the Unionists' viewpoint will need to look elsewhere.
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A Scottish professor of Irish history presents an outstanding, comprehensive single-volume history of the Emerald Isle, from the misty, pre-Celtic origins to the present. Bartlett uses a chronological approach but pays particular attention to some rather interesting, even controversial, aspects within various phases of Irish history. For example, Were the Vikings invaders or settlers? How English or how Irish were the so-called Anglo-Irish? Although his narrative requires a general familiarity with the history of the British Isles, reasonably well-informed general readers should easily digest his well-written and well-organized text. Bartlett superbly meshes social, political, and military factors to explain why the Irish, from either the north or the south, are the way they are. Both professional historians and general readers will enjoy this fine examination of the rich and varied history of this storied land. --Jay Freeman
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