Ireland is inarguably a beautiful, enchanted place. But its history is more turbulent, fascinating, and terrible than any other. From the first English presence in Ireland in the twelfth century, through siege, rebellion, and civil war, to Irish ascendancy, home rule, and the present-day Troubles, bestselling author Paul Johnson tells, with remarkable clarity and concision, the compelling story of this most remarkable island.
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Now I have both sides and a really big question
I am a first generation Irish-American. I have not lived this story firsthand. However, being American, I think in some way, I have lived both sides of this story. The Irish were victims of settlement by the English. Americans settled America, a land that had indigenous people. Still, I wanted to know the English side of the Irish story, because I only ever got the other side. This book provides it. Oddly, the book provides the other side with a bias similar to the side I have always gotten. To be fair, the book points out the failings and mistakes of both, but while it castigates the Irish for theirs, it only references without comment English wrongs or overreactions. Fine. Neither side admits or condemns their faults. Still, in a scholarly history, I expected more of an even hand. Still, the book does a good job covering 800 years of history, explaining the motivations and providing a good historical perspective. By the end, I understood the English point of view. In a line, here it is: All Imperial powers take land and resources in exchange for culture, modernity, laws, infrastructure, and education. You don't have to like it, but that is progress. Where the book, and the arguments I hear in life, fail is in the realization that while Progress is progress, there are still repercussions. That sounds obvious, but the English never seem to grasp it. And that failure is the root of all insurgent violence. If you accept the line above about Imperial powers, then you must also accept: when you take value from people "now," in return for benefits only later generations will appreciate, then some of people losing value now, will react violently. Again it sounds obvious, but it must not be. Why, when "conquered people" react violently is it EVER a surprise? It always is. It always escalates. Some people lash out at the Imperial party. The imperials are surprised and overreact back. That overreaction injuries innocent bystanders, who then join the initial attackers. And it escalates. It was true in the time of Cromwell. It is true today in Iraq. I appreciate the perspective the book provides, but I wonder why Imperial powers never learn that last lesson or why they haven't developed an appropriate, calming response for it in over 800 years? Oh well, a good, non-objective view of a tumultuous relationship. I reject the violence on both sides. I don't forgive the English for their heavy-handedness, but I understand it, as I do the American expansion in North America. I do however, condemn any association with Marxist or Islamic terrorists, which was suggested here and other places. These are the enemies of all progressive people.