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Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland Hardcover – March 18, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland
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  • Belfast Diary: War as a Way of Life
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Editorial Reviews

Review

Buried in the text of most histories you can detect the views of the author. Making Sense of the Troubles, the first attempt to tell the whole story of the past 30 years in Northern Ireland, is an exception. (Anne McHardy Observer)

One of the great merits of David McKittrick and David McVea's book lies in the authors' ability to pinpoint the causes of trouble while avoiding oversimplification.... A valuable resume of causes and effects. (Patricia Craig Independent)

If you want a frank, accurate and authoritative account you cannot do much better.... There could be no better guide through the intricacies of the Peace Process. This book...is likely to be the definitive account.... An important book.... It should be on every bookshelf. (Irish Independent)

Comprehensive, considered and compassionate. (Paul Arthur The Irish Times)

A masterly account. (Barry White Belfast Telegraph)

Extraordinarily well-balanced, sane, comprehensive, and rich in sober understatement. (Cal McCrystal Glasgow Herald)

This book tells a sorry tale, and it tells it with a powerful clarity.... It took steady nerves to undertake such a book. (Susan McKay Sunday Tribune)

About the Author

David McKittrick writes for the Independent and is a winner of the Orwell Prize for Journalism. In 1999 he was named correspondent of the year by the BBC's What the Papers Say. He has reported on Northern Ireland since 1973.

David McVea was, for many years, head of the politics department at a leading Belfast grammar school. He now works for Northern Ireland's examinations board. With David McKittrick he helped to produce the book Lost Lives, which tells the stories of all those who died as a result of the Troubles.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: New Amsterdam Books (March 18, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1561310700
  • ISBN-13: 978-1561310708
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are like I was before I read this book knowing only that Northern Ireland was about some kind of Religious Conflicts and the IRA then you have so much more to learn about Northern Ireland as I have learned with this book. This book covers everything in an informative way to help one absorb the information and yet not feel inundated. The book also features a chronology of events for quick references, tables and a glossary section that serves as a refresh section for the mind when the abbreviations of political parties and organizations become to much to remember. I recommend this book highly for personal or academic reasons in learning about the troubles in Northern Ireland.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I throughly enjoyed this book - most likely because I spent the majority of my life in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately a good unbiased viewpoint is very hard to come by, so I relished the opportunity to fill in a few gaps in my understanding. The flip side of this is that it appears that the authors let a few characters off lightly, on both sides.

The issue I believe is that the situation is very fluid in that part of the world, and events often come to light that change perceptions of various characters. The famous 'They haven't gone away' remark from Mr Adams isn't mentioned for example, and this casts him in a rather different light than is presented in the book.

I do applaud the authors however for not glossing over the lowpoints of Northern Ireland's recent history. Whilst sometimes painful to read, it does help dispel the fairytale fancy of those who have been led to regard murderers as 'freedom fighters'. I just wish that the authors hadn't given their apologists such a light hand.

All in all, if you are new to the area I'd highly recommend this one. This book is a great startpoint but shouldn't be your last read on the matter.
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Format: Hardcover
David McKittrick and David McVea present a thoughtful, excellent overview of sectarian strife in Northern Ireland since the 1960's, giving a balanced look at both the Protestant and Catholic communities. They begin with a superb brief historical sketch on the origins and early history of Northern Ireland, chronicling its major events from its inception in 1921 through the 1960's. They offer many fascinating portraits of prominent British, Irish and Northern Irish politicians and terrorists, ranging from the likes of diehard Protestant minister Ian Paisley to former IRA member Gerry Adams. This is quite simply one of the best books I've read on recent Northern Irish history and may be the best historical overview on the origins and current state of "The Troubles".
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Format: Hardcover
I read this before a trip to Northern Ireland this summer, where I met with politicians, community leaders and artists. After reading the book, I felt very comfortable with the main themes and events of the Troubles, and several people commented that I seemed particularly well-versed in the history of the conflict (I knew next to nothing even a year before my trip). The book is well-written and balanced, and gives a thorough introduction to the troubles. I recommend reading it after a brief overview of general Irish history (such as "Modern Ireland: A Very Short Introduction") and, of course, as much Joyce as time allows.
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be a little bit dry at times, though on the other hand, the descriptions of the violence at the hands of both the IRA and other republican groups and by the Unionist/loyalist groups were quite graphic. Still, it was quite easy to keep up with who was who and who was on which side, something that can sometimes be a problem in a history book. The authors gave a pretty balanced perspective--I do think they were a little more on the Catholic side, but overall, it was balanced. I do wish they had gone more into the background. Why did the British send the Protestants to Catholic Ireland in the first place, and how did the two sides get along before the 20th century? This is glossed over, though I guess what information is given is sufficient. It does whet my appetite to know more, however.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A brisk review of The Troubles written fairly well and finely researched. If you're looking for a primer on this era, Making Sense of The Troubles is a great place to start. The authors cover all major events of the period, delving deeper into some than others, doing a particularly good job on the peace process. Overall, a nice job offering a quick look at The Troubles and a good starting point if this is your first look into these complicated years.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When buying this book I had no previous knowledge on the Troubles, except some general info gathered from the internet. As an Israeli activist for peace in the Middle East, I felt it was very important to learn about the conflict in NI, especially given the many similarities between the 2 conflicts.
McKittrick and McVea's book provides the reader with plenty of information, quotes and figures and IMO does reflect different viewpoints. The timeline at the end of the book is really useful, as are the statistics of the casualties, breakdown by religious group, etc. However, I did find this book lacking in some aspects:

1. The historical background is IMO less than adequate for anyone not familiar with key events in Irish History, such as the Union with England, the 1916 Rising etc. Although the book does focus on the so-called Troubles themselves (that is 1960's-1990's), more background could have been useful.
2. The book is not very much up-to-date. The timeline ends at 2001, and recent events are not covered.
3. There are no pictures inside the book. Pictures could have helped understand much of the Zeitgeist of the conflict, and some of the events themselves. Murals, demonstrations, parades, aftermath of bombings and key persons - pictures could have added so much to the portraying of the Troubles in this book!
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