Customer Reviews: For the Cause of Liberty: A Thousand Years of Ireland's Heroes
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on March 22, 2000
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.
Although the year 1916 has been lionized, the revolutionary was actually won in 1920 under the brilliant direction of Michael Collins. Eamon DeValera was in America raising funds as Collins and his intelligence unit, known as the "Twelve Apostles," moved in on the British Secret Service. It would all coalesce on November 21, 1920-Bloody Sunday-when Collins' squad assassinated the entire British Secret Service in Dublin. A truce soon followed, which was in turn followed by the infamous treaty negotiated by Collins that split the island into the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland.
Golway has come up with many historic gems that will delight the aficionado of Irish history. Everyone knows that Eamon DeValera was spared execution in 1916 because he was a natural-born American citizen. Did you know that the British did, indeed, execute an American national? Do you know which one of the 16 men was the American? Give up? Try Tom Clarke, naturalized in Brooklyn in 1885. Only one of Collins' shooters on Bloody Sunday went on to become Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the Republic of Ireland and it wasn't DeValera. Try Sean Lemass, who would greet President Kennedy on his historic visit to Ireland in 1963. Golway also relays a wonderful story about British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Tomas Cardinal O Fiaich at #10 Downing Street. "We fought the Germans and the French, and now we're on the best of terms with them," Thatcher said. "Why are we fighting the Irish?" "But Prime Minister," replied the Cardinal, "you're not occupying the Rhine."
Tears, laughter, defeat, victory. Irish history is a delicate weave of all of them and Golway brings them all to life in The Cause of Liberty. It will get your Irish up!
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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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on March 17, 2000
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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on December 10, 2000
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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on May 22, 2001
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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on November 19, 2002
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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on June 25, 2003
Evaluating Golway's book in terms of its subtitle-- a thousand years of Ireland's heroes-- I think this selection is fantastic. As a semi-biographical profile of many prominent, legendary, and simply amazing Irish revolutionaries, this book does exactly what it should. Golway discusses such notables as Brian Boru, the O'Neill family, Wolfe Tone, Daniel O'Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Arthur Griffith, O'Donovan Rossa, Kevin Barry, Richard Mulcahy, the leaders of the Easter Rising, Eamon de Valera, Michael Collins, Kevin Barry, Bobby Sands, Countess Markievicz, Bernadette Devlin, and many more. Other reviewers have summarized quite well what the book is; I would like to provide readers with an idea of what the book is not. This would make excellent supplementary reading for anyone with an interest in Irish history. However, Golway does focus on elements of biography and therefore does presume a fair bit of knowledge on the part of the audience. If you are looking for a good starting point in learning about Irish history, I would not suggest this title. On the other hand, if you already have a general working knowledge about Ireland, these biographies would very, very much enrich your experience. Bottom line: buy it for the biographies and consider any Irish history you pick up along the way an added bonus.
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on October 16, 2014
I have read quite a few books about Irish history which can be hard to understand some of the time. Terry Golway's book "For The Cause of Liberty" was fairly easy reading and enjoyable. Furthermore he really explained who was who which at times gets quite confusing. I would heartly recommend to anyone interested in Irish history.
Patricia McCafferty Walter
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on September 6, 2001
As a newcomer to the subject of Ireland and in particular to "the troubles", I found this book to be quite informative. Of particular intetest is that the time frame starts so early in history. After hearing about the problems in Northern Ireland all my life through the media, it was interesting to hear a version that, in no way, favored the British side. It was a fascinating walk through of the whole story of the conflict from the very beginning to present day. The book, however, does not move as quickly as had been propounded. It is a great work, regardless.
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on November 18, 2003
I'm part Irish-American and I knew some about the conflicts between the British and the Irish. After reading For the Cause of Liberty, I now realize how little I knew.
The book provided an excellent history of the Irish struggle. The information on the Irish heroes (both Protestant and Catholic) who fought the British was very readable. I never knew that the French had a hand (or tried to) in the rebellion in the late 1700's. The extent of the savagery and despicable behavior that the Irish endured was very effectively presented. Overall, an excellent book.
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