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For the Cause of Liberty: A Thousand Years of Ireland's Heroes Hardcover – March 8, 2000

4.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For more than 800 years, Ireland has had to define itself politically in relation to its next-door neighbor and sometime occupier, England. That fact has fueled generations of Irish revolutionary activity--and given rise to countless heroes, ordinary men and women who suffered and died in the cause of freedom.

One person's hero is, of course, another's criminal, and Irish American journalist Terry Golway takes pains not to paint too saintly a portrait of men such as Daniel O'Connell, a Catholic emancipator who loathed rebellion but loathed oppression even more; Michael Collins, the soldier and politician who helped bring about the modern Irish state; Gusty Spence, the Ulster Protestant militant who, while in prison, became a convert to the cause of nonsectarian peacebuilding; and Gerry Adams, who helped bring militant Catholics into negotiations with their Protestant counterparts and the English government. While striving for balance, For the Cause of Liberty takes an overwhelmingly pro-Irish stand vis-à-vis England, which may not please some readers, as he charts the lives and accomplishments of dozens of historical figures major and minor. Those heroes of old may soon belong to a fading past; as Golway notes, approvingly, Northern Ireland seems well along on its path to peace, while the Republic is rapidly becoming "post-nationalist," with one of the fastest-growing economies in Europe, "outpacing Britain and even Germany." His vivid history reminds readers well, however, of the cost of that newfound wealth and harmony. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, Golway, an historian (Irish Rebel: John Devoy and America's Fight for Ireland's Freedom, etc.) and political columnist at the New York Observer, offers an essential short course in Irish history, spanning 1,000 years and encompassing events familiar to every Irish high school student but not well-known outside the Emerald Isle. Golway crafts a dramatic tale, placing various episodes in a broad context that will enlighten an audience familiar with, say, the founding of Ireland's Abbey Theatre but not with the theater's role in Irish revolution. The focus is on the people who risked life and limb in defense of their homeland. Readers will meet the full spectrum of well-known heroes, such as Wolfe Tone, Daniel O'Connel and Michael Collins. They will also be introduced to a bevy of courageous unknowns, including the late 18th century's Father Murphy of Boolavogue, who initially urged rebellious parishioners to disarm but then, when faced with British violence, became a rebel leader, telling his followers it would be better "to die like men than to be butchered like dogs in the ditches." Ireland's nationalist heroes include a significant number of women, whose tales are recounted here in admirable terms. Those who are familiar with modern Irish history may question the inclusion of certain persons in this gallery; politician Gerry Adams, for instance, remains a controversial figure, and the former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy Smith, may strike some as decidedly unheroic. Yet, on the whole, this is an energetic and deeply informative work whose author makes a strong plea for a new type of heroism dedicated to preserving peace in Ireland. (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 8, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684855569
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684855561
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,707,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
One of the problems with Irish history is that it is so complicated. The command structures of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the Uprising in 1916 can be traced to the Fenians of 1867. Even today, the events that led to the Belfast agreement can be found in the seeds that the Irish Taoiseach, Sean Lemass, planted in the mid-1960s. Irish history is so convoluted that it is almost impossible for the average reader to sort out who was on what side during the Irish Civil War of 1922-23. Indeed, it is impossible to tell your average Irish revolutionary without the proverbial scorecard.
Finally someone has created the scorecard that sorts out this glorious mess known as Irish history. His name is Terry Golway and the book is For the Cause of Liberty: A Thousand Years of Ireland's Heroes. This is a book for not only the informed reader, but for the neophyte. Names that are legend in history such as Pearse, Tom Clarke, Sean McDermott and James Connolly, with Golway's help, finally become fresh and blood men. Icons found in the pages of Yeats ("MacDonagh and MacBride/And Connolly and Pearse") become men with a political agenda, whose sole aim is to bait the British into executing them. The Irish revolution is great drama: a David and Goliath battle that ends in disaster; 16 executions, and the start of one of the bloodiest guerilla wars in the history of the 20th century. Heroes abound: Pearse, the enigmatic poet, the "Provisional President" of the new "Republic"; Connolly, the socialist, who the British would have to shoot in a chair because of his wounds; Tom Clarke, always referred to as "the old Fenian" although only 55-years-old, is the master-mind as he gets even for all the years he rotted in British jails.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read a lot of books on Irish nationalism--if not as many as Terry Golway has listed in his excellent bibliography!--and I recommend his work as a readable, fair-minded, and well-told introduction to the subject. A thousand years condensed into a little over 300 pp. of lively narrative; although about 700 years gets condensed into the book's first few pages. Most of the concentration is upon the period from the 1700's forward, and the pace picks up when the 1798 rebellion, the first of many, begins. Golway's capsule biographies of many of participants gather essential details and apropos anecdotes to give a brief sketch of many names that most readers may have only heard a bit at best about before. This panoramic perspective gives the history a broader scope than other such introductions to Irish history, and he uncovers factual nuggets about many of the figures that help the curious reader to keep them easily in mind. Assuming nothing on the part of the reader in prior knowledge of the period, he writes a study that at the same time can satisfy those who thought they were already familiar with these events. Like a good popularizer should accomplish in a popular history, Golway tells the story with no wearisome editorializing, no maudlin asides, and no apparent ideological hidden agenda. The facts speak for themselves, and whet your appetite for more--many further works can be tracked down through his notes and bibliography. If you're looking for a place to start yourself or another reader on a journey into the Irish past and present, it's a great place to begin.
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Format: Hardcover
One of the most endearing aspects of this fine book is its compactness -- just 335 pages to tell the saga of Ireland's 1000-year struggle for freedom. Far more important, however, is the focus of the book -- not on the often dreary minutiae of Anglo-Irish politics, but rather on the people, the men and women who have arisen generation after generation in Irish history to champion the cause of freedom. It's history through biography and done with a historian's attention to detail and a journalist's sense of style. It is, quite simply put, THE BEST one-volume history of Irish nationalism around.
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Format: Hardcover
Incredibly interesting book to learn how Ireland and its politics got to where they are today. Its not just religion in the sense of Protestant vs. Catholic. Its cultural going back to the 5th century and the difference between Tribal culture of the Celts, the Northern European Culture of Normans and English, and the arrogance of the Papacy. Golway packs it all into a relatively short book that reads like a novel.
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Format: Hardcover
It's amazing that Golway put so much information in such a little space, complete with pictures of all his subjects. An excellent account of Irish history through the personalities that made it. Most of the book covers the 19th and 20th centuries but most of the changes took place in that era. I thought I knew everything about Ireland but I was sure wrong. This book also reads like a novel which makes it even better. I can't wait to read his book on John Devoy.
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Format: Hardcover
Golway's summary of 1,000 years of Irish history provides a very good overview of the highlights of Irish history. It is a great introduction for someone just starting their study of Ireland's rich history. For those who have delved into the history already, it is an enjoyable read. Golway just skims the surface, though. The collection is far from complete in any of the eras it covers.
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