R. V. Comerford


Life
[Richard Vincent Comerford]; grad. Maynooth, NUI; PhD (TCD), 1977, supervised by Theo. Moody; appt. lecturer in History at Maynooth, 1977; issued Charles J. Kickham: A Study in Irish Nationalism and Literature (1979) - his doctoral topic - and The Fenians in Context: Irish Politics and Society, 1848-82 (1985); appt. Professor of History, and head of department, 1989; issued and Ireland [Inventing the Nation] (2003);
 
he has also edited various essay-collections incl. Religion, Conflict and Coexistence in Ireland (1990), a festschrift for Monsignor Patrick J. Corish; and National Questions: Reflections on Daniel O’Connell and Contemporary Ireland (2000), with Enda Delaney; he is gen. editor of the ‘Topics in Irish History’ series of Wolfhound Press and a member of the board of the Irish Historical Society; also consultant member or IRCHSS;
 
resigned headship of the Dept. of History (Maynooth), 2009, and retired from the university in Feb. 2010; Terence Dooley edited a festschrift in his honour (Ireland’s Polemical Past, 2010); his research interests centred on ‘the concept of political mobilisation and its multifarious bases in modern society’ with a ‘comparative interest in Ireland and the Netherlands’ .

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Works
Monographs
  • Charles J. Kickham: A Study in Irish Nationalism and Literature (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1979) 255pp.;
  • The Fenians in Context: Irish Politics and Society, 1848-82 (Wolfhound 1985, 1998), 272pp., ports.;
  • Ireland [Inventing the Nation ser.] (London: Arnold 2003), xii, 279pp., ill. [facs., map, port.];
Edited collections
  • ed., with Mary Cullen, Jacqueline Hill & Colm Lennon, Religion, Conflict and Coexistence in Ireland: Essays in Honour of Monsignor Patrick J. Corish (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1990), q.pp.
  • ed., with Enda Delaney, National Questions: Reflections on Daniel O’Connell and Contemporary Ireland, (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 2000); a festschrift entitled Ireland’s Polemical Past was edited by Terence Dooley (2010).
  • ed., wWith Jennifer Kelly. Associational Culture in Ireland and Abroad (Dublin: IAP 2010).
Journal articles
  • ‘Anglo-French tensions and the Origins of fenianism’, in Ireland under the Union: Varieties of Tension, ed. F. S. L. Lyons & R. A. J. Hawkins (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1980), pp.149-71.
  • ‘Patriotism as Pastime: The Appeal of Fenianism in the mid-1860s’, in Irish Historical Studies, XXII, 87 (March 1981), pp.239-50.
  • ‘Míshuaimhneas agus náisiúnachas sa naoú haois déag [Discontent and Nationalism in the Nineteenth century]’, in Léachtaí Cholm Cille, XIII: Éire, Banba, Fódla (1982), pp.151-65.
  • ‘France, the Fenians and Irish Nationalist Strategy’, in Études Irlandaises, 7 (1982), pp.115-25.
  • ‘Political myths in Modern Ireland’, in Irishness in a Changing Society, ed. George Sandulescu [Princess Grace Irish Library] (Gerrards Cross, 1988), pp. 1-17 [see extract].
  • ‘The British state and the Education of Irish Catholics, 1850-1921’, in Schooling, Educational Policy and Ethnic Identity, ed. Janusz. J. Tomiak (London: Institute of Education/UL 1989), pp.13-33.
  • ‘Nation, Nationalism and the Irish Language’, in Perspectives on Irish Nationalism, ed. T. E.Hachey & L. J. McCaffrey (Kentucky UP 1989)
  • ‘Canon John O’Rourke: Historian of the Great Famine’, in Beyond the Library Walls, ed. Thomas Kabdebo (Maynooth[: An Sagart] 1995), pp. 58-68
  • ‘Republicans and Democracy in Modern Irish politics’, in Republicanism in Modern Ireland, ed. Fearghal McGarry (Dublin, 2003), pp. 8-22
  • ‘Two Classics from South Tipperary: Keating’s Foras feasa and Kickham’s Knocknagow’, in Tipperary Journal (2005)
  • ‘The Political Cultures of Europe in a Historical Context: Western Europe’, in The Political Cultures of Europe, ed. Ekavi Athanassopoulou (London & New York, 2007)
  • ‘Ireland’s Nineteenth century’, in Social Thought on Ireland in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Séamas Ó Síocháin (UCD Press 2009), pp.1-8.
Miscellaneous
  • ‘1850-70’, in The New History of Ireland, Vol. 5, ed. W. E. Vaughan (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1989), pp.372-450;
  • ‘1870-91’, in The New History of Ireland, Vol. 6, ed. by W. E. Vaughan (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1996), pp xliii-lvii & 1-80;
  • Lest We forget : Kildare and the Great Famine ([Naas]: Kildare County Council [1996]), 106p., ill. [maps; 25cm.]
  • contrib. ‘Daniel O’Connell’; to New Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Clarendon Press 2004) [10,000 wds.],

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Bibliographical details
R[ichard] V[incent] Comerford, Ireland: Inventing the Nation [Inventing the Nation ser.] (London: Hodder Arnold 2003), xii, 279pp., ill. CONTENTS [Chaps.]: Faith and the fatherland in the 17th century; colonial nationalism in the 18th century; revolutionary nationalism; the Orange order; Catholic nationalism; romantic nationalism; national schooling; land and nation; an empire for nationalists; Irish-America’s Ireland; unionism; Celtic nationalism; independent Ireland, Gaelic and Catholic; Northern Ireland - British and Protestant; sport and identity; history-writing.

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Criticism
Terence Dooley, ed., Ireland’s Polemical Past: Views of Irish History in Honour of R. V. Comerford (Dublin: UCD Press 2010), xi, 223pp.[see contents].

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Bibliographical details
Terence Dooley, ed., Ireland’s Polemical Past: Views of Irish History in Honour of R. V. Comerford (Dublin: UCD Press 2010), xi, 223pp. CONTENTS: Jacqueline Hill, ‘The Church of Ireland and perceptions of Irish church history, c. 1790-1869’; Maura Cronin, ‘By memory inspired: the past in popular song, 1798-1900’; Jennifer Kelly, ‘Local memories and manipulation of the past in pre-famine County Leitrim’; John Coolahan, ‘Perceptions of Ireland and its past in nineteenth-century national school textbooks’; Margaret Kelleher, ‘An illustrious past: Victorian prosopography and Irish women writers’; Enda Delaney, ‘Narratives of exile and displacement: Irish Catholic emigrants and the national past, 1850-1914’; D. George Boyce, ‘Isaac Butt and Charles Stewart Parnell: the history of politics and the politics of history’; R. F. Foster, ‘Forward to Methuselah: the progress of nationalism’; Irene Furlong, ‘Excavating the Emerald Isle: the use of the past in Irish tourism’; Tom Nelson, ‘Kildare County Council and perceptions of the past’; Terence Dooley, ‘National patrimony and political perceptions of the Irish country house in post-independence Ireland’.

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Commentary
R. F. Foster, ‘Thinking from Hand to Mouth: Anglo-Irish Liteature, Gaelic Nationalism and Irish Politics in the 1890s’ [Chap. 13], in Paddy and Mr. Punch: Connections in Irish and English History Allen Lane 1993): ‘The nature of Irish Anglophobia has rarely been examined systematically, much as the Catholic confessionalism of Irish nationalism has not often been analysed. Comerford puts it with characteristic forcefulness: ‘The creators and custodians of mainstream Irish mythology have succeeded over a period of generations in blurring recognition of a salient fact about Irish nationalism, namely, that since the early nineteenth century at least it has been essentially an expression of the felt needs, social and psychological, of the Irish Catholic body, including their apparent need to challenge other Christians on the island in various ways.’ This is refreshing, but demands some examination of the extent to which this challenge was itself a historical response.’ (Foster, op. cit., [Notes,] p.366; quoting Quoting The Fenians in Context, p.30.)

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Quotations

‘Political myths in Modern Ireland’, in Irishness in a Changing Society, ed. George Sandulescu [Princess Grace Irish Library] (Gerrards Cross, 1988), pp. 1-17.

 
[...] What matters most in political terms is the widespread popular attachment to the idea of a separate Irishness. Yet neither this mythic simplification nor the more complex truth about Irish identity has prescriptive political implications. But for a series of political contingencies popular Irish nationalism might have been satisfied with something less than separate statehood, as up to now the very strong national entities of Catalonia and Scotland have been. On the other hand, the close economic and cultural ties of Ireland with England could not of themselves constitute an argument against the “popular will” for Irish independence [...] but it ought to occasion no surprise that under the circumstances an Irish state should have difficulty matching political independence with cultural and economic independence. [See further under J. J. Lee, infra.] (p.11.)
[...]
[T]he non-confessional nationalist myth is to a considerable extent the creation of Protestants, especially Thomas Davis / But beneath this top layer of “Protestant Catholic and Dissenter” mythology there lies uneasily the “faith and fatherland” myth which is much closer to the springs of collective emotion. Irish nationalist identity and Irish nationalist behaviour are bedevilled by an unresolved confusion about the place of religious affiliation in the scheme of things. The problem is not simply one of myth, but of myth and muddle. It is possible that this muddle produces the worst of two worlds: inability to expand beyond the confessional bases on the one hand, and on the other hand inhibitions that have discouraged the positive exploration of the resources of the catholic inheritance. (p.14.)
[...]

The provision of economic opportunity at home for “all the children of the nation” as advocated by politicians from every quarter is a most praiseworthy policy, or it would be if there were such a policy. the fact is that now and for a long time past those in Ireland with property and jobs are not, and have never been, prepared, collectively, to make any serious sacrifice in the interest of opportunities for all. And nobody will have the temerity to ask them for that sacrifice. The less that is done to change matters, the greater the need to resort to the expiatory myth. [T]here is no provision in nature for Ireland, any more than Sicily or Newfoundland, to be a self-contained employment zone. / Not even the most cursory glance at modern political myths that affect Irish people would be complete without a mention of the liberation myth. [...] (p.15.)

[...]
Myths would break no bones if people were not already ranged against one another in contending collectivities, but once given the existence of groups in conflict, myths of the wrong type can contribute greatly to the mischief. There is no evidence that Irish people are more addicted to political mythology than their fellow Europeans, or that an abnormal preoccupation with myth explains the persistence of Irish political troubles. The difficulty is that Ireland is all too typical. [...] (p.16.)
Available at Google Books - online; accessed 15.09.2011.

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