Christine Kinealy’s background as a professor of history at Drew University and her past publications place her at the forefront of Irish historical research. She has authored at least fourteen books, prior to her current book War and Peace: Ireland since the 1960s.
She is one of the foremost authorities on the Irish Famine, or, as it is more aptly known, the Great Starvation. She is also one of the world’s leading authorities on the events of 1848 when revolutions wracked Europe. Out of those revolutions came assertions of civil rights and liberties we take for granted today but which, in that crucible year, were radical. Kinealy’s new book addresses an equally transformative period in the history of Ireland.
It is a story of terror and dislocation as people sought social justice and peace. It also tells the story of determination and achievement, set against the background of poverty and social conservatism. Of lives that were lost or shattered, as men and women of vision and courage were too often outmaneuvered by those who put prejudice and personal gain above peace and social justice.
I am reasonably familiar with recent Irish history, having been a witness on the periphery of some of it. Yet I found on the first page of Kinealy’s introduction an important facet of key legislation with which I was not previously familiar. You will find other fascinating information and insights as you view the tapestry of events that she has masterfully unrolled to show interlocking patterns of politics and culture dyed into the background of armed conflict. Some happenings may be isolated in your recollection, as they were in mine, but Kinealy places those events in a chronological, political and cultural context. This form of reporting will refresh your recollection and enable you to evaluate what happened with the benefit of recent revelations and government documents that have found their way into the public domain. Kinealy uses this information in such a way that she provides a better understanding of the tragedies and missed opportunities, which compounded the losses suffered in singular events.
Kinealy’s writing style is clear, concise and engrossing. In fact, this book is so well written you will be tempted to stay up too late, just to finish the next chapter. It is also meticulously researched and footnoted. I predict it will become a standard history of the period.
If I leave you in any doubt about the merits of War and Peace: Ireland since the 1960s, let me just give you a snippet from one review in a publication in Northern Ireland, the South Belfast News. “Whatever you do buy this book! If you need reminding of the cruelty and injustice visited on this part of Ireland in recent decades, buy this book. If you want to develop awareness of the support structure for injustice provided by the press and academia here, read this book. If you know someone whose mind needs opening and/or who is in need of an absorbing Christmas read, buy this book. They don’t come much better than this.”
After reading just half of the book, I decided to purchase copies for each of my children as memorable Christmas gifts. I suggest you do the same for anyone who has an interest or curiosity about events in Ireland during the last few decades.
$40/414 pages/Reaktion Books www.reaktionbooks.com
The history behind “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”