Tim McMahon is associate professor of Irish history at Marquette University and author of Grand Opportunity: The Gaelic Revival and Irish Society, 1893-1910 (Syracuse University Press, 2008).
In June I had the opportunity to travel to Ireland for a conference on Modernism, Media and Memory. The sessions focused on the decade from 1912 to 1922, the centenary of which government and private sponsors are planning to commemorate over the next several years. And there is much to commemorate as, during that decade, Ireland experienced labor strife, political turmoil, a world war, a guerrilla war for independence from the United Kingdom, the partition of the island into two states (Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State, the latter of which became the Republic of Ireland in the late 1940s), a civil war in the south of the island, and communal violence in the north.
A catalogue of such events can serve as a useful introduction to what people experienced in early twentieth-century Ireland, but it merely points to what I believe were more deeply rooted long-term transformations that shaped the island during the ensuing century. One of the more fundamental transitions had been underway for years prior to 1912, but it came to a head during the “decade of commemorations.” I am writing of the Gaelic revival, a movement that has profoundly shaped popular and official understandings of Irish identity down to the present. Continue reading ‘Changing Ideals: Ireland in Transition’