Up to 17,000 people are expected to avail of a free online Irish history class offered by Trinity College Dublin. In what has become one of the world’s biggest classes in Irish history, “Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland’s History 1912-1923” is a six-week course taught online by Trinity lecturers.

The university’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), which began last Tuesday, will look at Ireland’s turbulent history in this 11-year time period that included the Easter Rising, the First World War, the War of Independence, the partition of Ireland and the Civil War. Students will be asked to analyse the lives of men, women and children during this time and encouraged to explore the question of the contested nature of history by various opposing viewpoints.

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Ciarán Brady, professor of early modern history and historiography, said “Our aim is to question that there is a single narrative or an easy explanation of the past. We want to challenge the silent assumption that there can be one authoritative voice claiming to have all the answers.”

The class attracted massive attention when it was first organized last year and the university hopes to repeat its enrollment of 17,000 people. The interest in the course was strongest in countries with a large Irish diaspora with over half of those expressing interest living outside of Ireland. Of these, one in four were from the US, 14% from the UK and 11% in countries such as Australia, Canada, France, and Spain.

The MOOC is available for anybody with an internet connection and five free hours a week. The course can be taken at the student’s own pace with video, assignment and online discussion with other students and will also offer the opportunity to purchase a Statement of Participation on completion of the course. Students can also use the hashtag #FLirishlives to interact with other learners.

Although students are not required to have any prior expertise or knowledge, a basic interest in Irish and modern European history is advised.

The course is available on the website Future Learn, owned by the Open University, that offers a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. Launched in September 2013, the company boasts over one million course sign-ups and over half a million learners.

More info about the class and registration is available here: www.futurelearn.com/courses/irish-history.