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Malachy McCourt's History of Ireland (paperback) Paperback – January 29, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press (January 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762431814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762431816
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #202,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

McCourt (A Monk Swimming) breaks down Ireland's history into 16 sections and, through biographical vignettes, uses famous Irish men and woman to define each epoch. For example, he explores ancient Ireland by profiling the three most prominent Irish saints: Patrick, Brigid and Columcille. Each brief, colloquial sketch provides not only historical background but also colorful conjectures. Moving through history, readers encounter Brian Ború, the Irish king credited with expelling the Vikings and unifying Ireland; Strongbow, who led the Norman invasion of Ireland; and Hugh O'Neill, who battled Elizabeth for Irish freedom before succumbing in the Battle of Kinsale in 1601. Modern Ireland is represented by the likes of Theobald Wolfe Tone, a member of the (Presbyterian) United Irishmen, who led the unsuccessful revolution of 1798; and Daniel O'Connell, the Liberator, who brought religious freedom to Ireland's Catholics. Of course, modern revolutionary Ireland is represented by Michael Collins and Eamon De Valera, and there are also looks at writers W.B. Yeats and Samuel Beckett. McCourt takes us up to the present with portraits of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams and rock star Bono. Interesting for the neophyte, this volume will be old news for the veteran reader of Irish history.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

County Limerick native Malachy McCourt is the authority to tell the history of Ireland. He has written several books, including the best-selling A Monk Swimming, Singing My Him Song, Danny Boy, Voices of Ireland, and The Claddagh Ring. Complementing his literary work, McCourt is also a skilled actor. He appeared in the television series Oz and in feature films such as The Bonfire of the Vanities. He lives in New York City.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

50 of 57 people found the following review helpful By ProperGander News (Dr. Emil Shuffhausen) on September 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
To tell the history of Ireland, one needs to not only capture the truth of Ireland, but also the spirit of Ireland. What a tragedy it would be to tell Irish history in a boring or dry fashion. Fortunately for readers, McCourt not only captures fascinating historical details, but he is able to convey the story in an entertaining and rollicking fashion...as befitting the subject matter. The cast of characters here is huge and varied, ranging from St. Patrick to Yeats to Bono, and the book feels a bit like a friendly night at the pub with a nice fire, some songs, and a pint or two. McCourt takes an epic history, filled with triumph and tragedy, and brings it down to a personal level. This is a must-read for all who are Irish and all who are Irish at heart.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful By David on July 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
as one with virtually no knowledge of irish history, i bought this book with hopes of learning more about the interesting past of ireland, and especially about the complicated politics of 20th century ireland. this book was not one that fulfilled those hopes.

i'm not sure who mccourt's audience is - if you know a lot about ireland and its past, it seems like this book would offer you nothing new save prhaps a few interesting anecdotes. if, like me, you are looking for a starting point into irish history, i don't think this is a great book for you either. mccourt expects his readers to have a basic understanding of many events and political factions that are relevant to the past hundred years of ireland - if you don't have this knowledge, you may find yourself feeling you're missing large parts of the big picture.

mccourt's history is focused on important irish individuals, which helps his story-telling style by giving him the chance to bring these people to life with his descriptive tales. but it hurts the book as a history, because he ends up bringing up events from a person's life before he gets to explaining them as part of another person's life. this was somewhat confusing.

this isn't a terrible book - it paints interesting pictures of various figures from irish history. but if you want to gain an understanding of the whole of irish history, and especially if you're hoping to understand the forces at play in ireland's 20th century struggles for independence and unity, this is definitely not the book to read.
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Format: Paperback
The little island to the west of England has brought more to the world than the world knows. Malachy McCourt's "History of Ireland" covers the nation's complete history, touching on subjects in its history as diverse as Viking invasions to Ireland's contributions to the fine arts. Nothing is left out- real history and mythology alike are covered in full. "History of Ireland" is comprehensive, well written and composed by best-selling author Malachy McCourt. It's a top pick for community library history collections, and for anyone who wants to learn more about this oft-forgotten major piece of world history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James D. on July 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I can tell you that the best thing about McCourts wideranging view of Irish History is that he has painted a balanced history. There is no leaning one way or the other to highlight Cathlic vs Protestant, English vs Irish, Native vs Settler, Irish Clanship vs English Aristocratic, Native vs Old Irish vs Settlers vs Sinn Fein vs IRA vs Provisionals... because they all have their place in the telling. I come away from it much more appreciative of people from all those various factions who, risked their lives and careers not so much for their fundamental beliefs as their recognition that they all are Irish and were proud to be Irish, even if to many they had to become exiles to preserve what they knew was the best of it. Yes, if you were to close your eyes and envision Ireland as it is... you will get a much better picture of it after this book than after reading a score of books written from the perspective of any one else representing history from any one of the parochial histories that I just mentioned. Jim
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By James M. Swanson on March 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have just started reading and it is very informative. The book was in excellent condition for being used. I wish I had known some of this info on Ireland before I visited a couple of years ago. There were some places mentioned in the book I would have liked to visit. Some of them were right in the area I was visiting but I was unaware of their significance.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Olga on March 21, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In the tradition of Irish storytellers, this history of Ireland is entertaining and thought-provoking -- and it's an easy read.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By buzzbuzz1 on August 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It was very good. Lighter than most histories that are more documentary in style. Easy to read and a good background before travelling to Ireland.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Deborah on November 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed listening to Malachy McCourt's audiobook of his autobiography, "Singing My Him Song," and of course, I have read all of his brother Frank's books. I wanted a book on the history of Ireland that was not as highbrow as Thomas Cahill's "How the Irish Saved Civilization." McCourt's book gives us an overview of Ireland's history, beginning with Viking and Norman invasions, and provides mini biographies of people important to Ireland's drive for independence.

One thing I appreciated about this book was that contrary to what a previous reviewer wrote, I did not get the impression that McCourt is anti-Protestant. In fact, he highlights important fighters for independence who were Protestant. I always thought that it was Catholic men and women who were the only ones interested in freeing Ireland from England. But McCourt gives praise where it was due and writes about all of these Irish as heroes and fighters.

It would be impossible to include all that has happened in Ireland's history, from before St. Patrick's arrival, to the present day, in a book this size. This book is good for an overview, perhaps some reading before a trip to the Emerald Isle. For more in-depth reading, read "Angela's Ashes," "How the Irish Saved Civilization," "Paddy's Lament" and other books that give different views on the history. Find a period you want to read about and go from there.

I like McCourt's tone in this book and yes, he sounds like someone you would want to sit next to in a bar while he tells you these stories. McCourt does not pretend to be a scholar or historian, and in fact, relays a story about asking a friend who is a historian about whether to include information on Oliver Cromwell. He makes his bias against Cromwell very apparent and decides not to include a biography. Fair enough.
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