Terence A. Dooley Director of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates at NUI Maynooth.
How societies use the past is one of their most revealing traits. Using this insight "Ireland's Polemical Past" examines how the inhabitants of nineteenth and twentieth-century Ireland plundered their pasts for polemical reasons. The ten essays explore how revolutionaries, politicians, churchmen, artists, tourists and builders (among others) used the Irish past in creating and justifying their own position in contemporary society. The result is a varied portrait of the problems and tensions in nineteenth and early twentieth-century society that these people tried to solve by resorting to the Irish past for inspiration and justification to make their world work. This is a book that will appeal to those who have an interest in the making of modern Ireland as well as those concerned with writing about the Irish past at any level.
The Church of Ireland and perceptions of Irish church history, c. 1790-1869, Jacqueline Hill
'By memory inspired'
- the past in popular song, 1798-1900, Maura Cronin
Local memories and manipulation of the past in pre-famine County Leitrim, Jennifer Kelly
Perceptions of Ireland and its past in nineteenth-century national school textbooks, John Coolahan
An illustrious past
- Victorian prosopography and Irish women writers, Margaret Kelleher
Narratives of exile and displacement
- Irish Catholic emigrants and the national past, 1850-1914, Enda Delaney
Isaac Butt and Charles Stewart Parnell
- the history of politics and the politics of history, D. George Boyce
Forward to Methuselah
- the progress of nationalism, R. F. Foster
Excavating the Emerald Isle
- the use of the past in Irish tourism, Irene Furlong
Kildare County Council and perceptions of the past, Tom Nelson
National patrimony and political perceptions of the Irish country house in post-independence Ireland, Terence Dooley
‘Comerford was appointed to the department of modern history, NUI Maynooth, in 1977, and was professor and head of department from September 1989 to November 2009. From 1989 to 1992 he was Dean of Arts. His main research area was in political mobilisation in modern society, with particular reference to Ireland and, for purposes of comparison, several other countries like the Netherlands. From 1977 he personally supervised about seventy successful major theses, including thirty PhDs and from 1988 he directed the department’s research programme in the production of about one hundred and fifty major theses.
Last February he retired from the university and this collection of essays has been published in his honour to mark the event. Former colleagues and students have contributed on subjects of interest to Comerford, particularly on how popular perceptions of the past and history are constructed. Topics include the past in popular song from 1798 to 1900, Irish Catholic emigrants and the national past, Isaac Butt and C. S. Parnell, and the progress of nationalism. The introduction gives a biographical sketch of Professor Comerford and an appendix lists his publications.’
'The purpose of this collection of essays is to examine the polemical nature of Ireland’s past or how history has been manipulated and misinterpreted. They were written on the occasion of the retirement from NUI Maynooth of R. V. Comerford as professor of history. It was long a concern of Comerford himself how history was understood and used in Ireland. So the essays are not about past controversies but rather about the controversial nature of history. … essays cover the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, focusing on local, regional and national concerns. They vary too in theme, including popular songs, national school text-books and even the country house. They all share the common view that the misunderstanding of history has caused many problems in Ireland and, the other side of the same coin, that some groups have deliberately exploited particular versions of the past.
Taken as a whole this book provides some interesting ideas on Irish history and postulates the idea, perhaps indirectly, that many of Ireland’s woes derive from a misunderstanding of the past. There are many thought-provoking essays here and Professor Comerford would no doubt approve of the approach and conclusions put forward by his colleagues and former students.'
'The wide-ranging focus of the essays – the mentalité of Protestant clerics, popular songs, memory and politics within Irish localities, the teaching of history, women’s writing, emigration, Home Rule politics, the march of nationalism, tourism, and the fate of the ‘Big House’ in Ireland – reflect many strains within Comerford’s own broad scholarship. Indeed, his influence on many of the contributors is undeniable. … The process of re-imagining the national past is one that this book expertly navigates from a range of perspectives; it stands as an important and fascinating book in its own regard, and is thus a most fitting tribute to R. V. Comerford, a pioneering scholar and writer of the first rank within modern Irish historiography.'
English Historical Review cxxvi: 523 (Dec. 2011)