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General Irish history

A Concise History of Ireland by Patrick Weston Joyce, circa 1910.

This is a very useful concise history of Ireland for anyone wishing to get an overview of the subject, and has been written with reasonable objectivity.

  • The new country called itself the Irish Free State. Gaelic was restored as the official national language, together with English. Ties with Great Britain were cut in 1948. The country became known as the Republic of Ireland. The other six counties in the north of the Ireland, called Northern Ireland, remained part of the UK, which they still.
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A History of Ireland and Her People by Eleanor Hull

A more in-depth history, well-written and fairly objective for the most part. It covers the History of Ireland from the earliest times until the early part of the 20th century.

The book is illustrated with portraits of some prominent people in Irish history.

An Illustrated History of Ireland by Margaret Anne Cusack (or Sister Mary Frances, Nun of Kenmare), 1868

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Cusack converted to Catholicism and became a nun before eventually reverting back to Protestantism. This history was written whilst she was in the convent and perhaps with the zeal of a convert.

As with many 19th century histories of Ireland the objectivity of this book is questionable, but it nevertheless contains plenty of interesting information and useful footnotes.

The book includes illustrations by Henry Doyle.

Irish Nationality by Alice Stopford Green, 1911.

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A good overview of the concept of Irish nationality, covering from the earliest times to the period of the Home Rule movement.

Ireland and Her Story by Justin McCarthy, 1903

A general overview of Irish history from the earliest times to the Home Rule period. Also available as a free ebook download.

The Story of Ireland by A. M. Sullivan, circa 1900.

Sullivan leaves you in doubt to his religious persuasion and political beliefs in this history. The book was published as part of the Atlas and Cyclopedia of Ireland, 1900.

Early Irish History and Antiquities, and the History of West Cork by Rev. W. O'Halloran, 1916.

A good overview of the early history of Ireland from the earliest inhabitants to the Battle of Clontarf. It is also useful for its descriptions of the various antiquities of the country: cromlechs, pillar stones, raths, ogham monuments, etc.

The history of West Cork covers from the Battle of Kinsale to the French arrival at Bantry Bay, and includes information on the main families of the area.

Featured Irish history

A book of essays by Bishop John Healy on various aspects of Irish history.

These include a biographical account of Grania Uaile (Grace O'Malley) the colourful 16th century character often referred to as the Irish pirate queen.

Also in the book is a fascinating piece on the theory of Round Towers in Ireland that discusses their origin and uses.

And, not least, is an extensive essay on the Holy Wells of Ireland.

Other Irish history

Annals of the Famine in Ireland in 1847, 1848, and 1849 by Asenath Nicholson

A truly shocking eye-witness account of the horrors of the Irish Famine by Asenath Nicholson, an American lady who travelled to Ireland with the express purpose of discovering the conditions for herself and to help in whatever way she could.

She berated the indifferent, the callous, the profiteers, but was also quick to praise the good-hearted people from all religious and political backgrounds who did their best to alleviate the suffering of the poor.

Mrs Nicholson was a woman of deep religious conviction and was quick to denounce the clergy who didn't practice what they preached. She was a teetotaler, a vegetarian, anti-hunting, and an enthusiastic advocate for women's rights.

This was a lady of strong mind and will, and she needed to be in order to face what she did during the Great Hunger. What she personally witnessed could easily have traumatized and destroyed a weaker vessel. She coped, but the memories of what she saw haunted her thereafter.

The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps) by John Mitchel.

In this book, the uncomprising John Mitchel not only covers the history of emancipation, the Young Ireland and Fenian movements, etc., but makes the bold statement that the Great Famine happened by design rather than by indifference or accident.

The Irish Revolution and how it came about by William O'Brien

William O'Brien was a County Cork M.P. who participated in the negotiations for Home Rule in Ireland. In this account, first published in 1923, he provides an insight into the politics and politicians of the time — John Redmond, James Dillon, Arthur Griffith, Sir Edward Carson, Bonar Law, Lloyd George, Winston Churchill, etc. — and gives his analysis of the origins of the Easter Rising of 1916 and the subsequent Irish Civil War. From his own perspective, O'Brien was very much anti-Partition, and was evidently frustrated at the failure to give adequate reassurance to the Northern Unionists.

Ulster's Stand for Union by Ronald McNeill

A Unionist perspective of the Home Rule Crisis of 1912, which includes an account of the subsequent formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force, the signing of the Solemn League and Covenant, gun-running to Ulster, the coming of the First World War, and the establishment of the Ulster Parliament in 1921.

The Scot in Ulster: Sketch of the History of the Scottish Population of Ulster by John Harrison

An informative, entertaining and easy read, John Harrison's account of the 17th century Scots settlers in Ulster is perhaps still the best introduction to the subject that there is.

The French Invasion of Ireland in '98 by Valerian Gribayedoff

A fascinating account of the French landing at Killala in Mayo in 1798 and the subsequent campaign against the British in the West of Ireland.

Irish-American and Scotch-Irish history

The Irish in America by John Francis Maguire

Originally published in 1868, The Irish in America is still a fascinatingly informative and highly readable book today.

The author, John Francis Maguire, sat as Member of Parliament for Cork City (1865-72) and was created a Knight Commander of St. Gregory by Pope Pius IX.

Although he is understandably sometimes a little guilty of tending to view his fellow countrymen and co-religionists through rose-tinted spectacles, his account of the Irish emigrant settlers in 19th century America is nevertheless a truly entertaining and invaluable source of social history.

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It provides a gripping insight into the conditions the emigrants faced, from the horror of the famine ships to the squalor of New York tenements and lodging-houses.

It tells of the dangers awaiting new arrivals, the trials and tribulations of settling in a foreign land, and covers a wide diversity of other matters such as perils to female virtue, cannibalism in the Californian mountains, the Irish soldier in the American Civil War, slavery, religious riots in Philadelphia, and how the Irish were viewed by other settlers.

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Yet, despite the author's desire to have his countrymen appear in a most favourable light, he doesn't shrink from touching upon the Irish reputation for excessive drinking and love of fighting, and he examines the trait and attempts to explain why it is so.

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This is a thoroughly absorbing chronicle of the Irish in the New World and a must read for any Irish-American.

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The Scotch-Irish in America by Henry Ford Jones

A classic of Scotch-Irish history by Henry Jones Ford, first published in 1915. The book traces the origins of the Scotch-Irish, examining the Plantation of Ulster and its impact on the formation of their character. It follows them to America, describing the difficult conditions that these pioneer frontiersmen had to face, and demonstrates the influence that the Scotch-Irish had in the foundation of the United States.

Scotch and Irish Seeds in American Soil by Rev. J. G. Craighead

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Originally published in 1878, Rev. Craighead’s book provides a history of the Scottish and Irish Presbyterian churches and demonstrates the enormous influence that they had on American politics and education through the emigration of Scots and Scotch-Irish to the ‘New World’.

A Pocket Guide to Northern Ireland (1943, for American GIs) by War and Navy Departments, Washington, D.C.

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A Pocket Guide to Northern Ireland was issued to US servicemen stationed in Northern Ireland during the Second World War.

Essays and Articles on Irish history