T. W. Moody (1907-84)

Commentary

Life
[Theodore William; fam. ‘Theo’] b. Belfast, ed. Royal Belfast Acad. Inst., QUB; Prof. of Mod. History TCD 1939-77; fellow emeritus, 1977; joint fnd. with Robert Dudley Edwards, and joint-ed., Irish Historical Studies, 1938-77; made lecture, ‘Towards a new history of Ireland’, as an address to Irish Historical Society, 4 Dec. 1962, resulting in the projected volumes of A New History of Ireland, edited by Moody with others incl. D. B. Quinn, R. B. McDowell, and Aubrey Gwynn;

also issued with F. X. Martin, ed., The Course of Irish History (1967), taken from a 23-lecture series given on RTE during 24 Jan.-13 June 1966; issued ‘Rules for Contributors to Irish Historical Studies’ (4th iss.; 1968) containing a list of standard Irish historical references; also ‘Irish History and Irish Mythology’ (1978), a key revisionist text; issued a history of QUB with J. C. Beckett; d. 11 Feb.; his history library was acquired by John Gamble of Belfast, bookseller. DIB DIW

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Works
Monographs,
  • The Londonderry Plantation 1609-41 (Belfast 1939);
  • with J. C. Beckett, Thomas Davis 1814-45 (Dublin 1945);
  • Ulster since 1800 (1955; 1957);
  • with J. C. Beckett, Queens Belfast 1845-59, the History of the University, 2 vols. (1959);
  • with F. X. Martin, ed., The Course of Irish History (Cork: Mercier Press 1967) [see new editions, infra]; ed. with F. X. Martin, F. J. Byrne, et al., A New History of Ireland 1534-1691, 3 vols. (Oxford 1976); 6 vols. to 1988, &c.; A Chronology of Irish History to 1976, Vol. 8 (Oxford 1983); Do., [...] Maps, Genealogies, Lists, Vol. 9 (Oxford 1984); ed., Nationality and the Pursuit of National Independence (Belfast 1978); Davitt and the Irish Revolution 1846-82 (Oxford 1982; pb. edn. 1984) [var. 1981]; Irish Historiography 1938-1970 (Irish Committee of Historical Sciences, TCD: 1971) [listed in Annual British National Bibliography].

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The Course of Irish History, ed. T. W. Moody & F. X. Martin [rev. & enl. 3rd edn.] (Cork: Mercier 1994), 510pp. [21 chaps.; formerly as RTE series]; Do. [with further chaps. by J. H. Whyte and Richard English in edns. of 1984 and 1994, incl. a 57pp. chronology up to IRA ceasefire]; Do. (Cork: Mercier Press 2011), 542pp. [reiss. with add. chaps. by Patrick Kiely and Dermot Keogh].

Articles, ‘A New History of Ireland’, in Irish Historical Studies, Vol. XVI, No. 63 (March 1969), [offprint 17pp.]; ‘Irish History and Irish Mythology’, in Hermethena CXXIV (Summer 1978), pp.7-24, rep. in Ciaran Brady, ed., Interpreting Irish History: The Debate on Historical Revisionism 1938-1994 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press 1994), pp.71-86 [infra].

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Criticism
F. S. L. Lyons, ‘T.W.M’, in Lyons & R. A. J. Hawkins, eds., Ireland under the Union: Varieties of Tension (OUP 1980), pp.1-33; Helen F. Mulvey, ‘Theodore William Moody (1907-1984): An Appreciation’, in Irish Historical Studies, XXIV (1984-85), pp.121-30; R. W. Dudley Edwards, ‘T. W. Moody and the Origins of Irish Historical Studies, in Irish Historical Studies, XXVI (1988-89), pp.1-2.

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Commentary
Ciaran Brady, ed., Interpreting Irish History: The Debate on Historical Revisionism 1938-1994 (Dublin: IAP 1994), introductory remarks to T. W. Moody, Irish History and Irish Mythology [71]: ‘Moody’s valedictory testament, delivered to the Trinity College History Society in 1977, was not greatly troubled by theoretical sophistication. It is possible to discern in its argument some influence of [romantic] idealism espoused by earlier theorists, such as Karl Mannheim and Karl Popper, in their critique of historicism. But there is no sign that Moody was responding [7] to - say - Levi-Strauss, then at the height of his influence in Ireland, for whom such a simple distinction between history and myth would have been absurd. But despite its old-fashioned character, Moody’s statement nevertheless provided the central focus of an unexpectedly rancorous debate that took place in the decade that followed, serving as a rallying cry for many academic historians who, followign in the great man’s path, were ready explicitly to assert the contemporary cultural relevance of their craft, and for their critics, both within and outside the academy, who identified it as a calear expression of the ideological arrogance and/or innocence of an entire generation of historians.’ (pp.8-9) Bibl. Moody, ’Irish History and Irish Mythology’, Hermethena, 124 (1978), pp.7-24; here 71-86.

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Conor McCarthy, Irish Modernisation: Crisis and Culture in Ireland, 1969-1992 (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2000), quotes: ‘History is a matter of facts [... &c.’; as infra]’ and juxtaposes it with Hayden White’s reflection that ‘every history has a myth’, and remarks: ‘The notion of such an interpenetration of myth, fiction and history would have appeared as so much moral and epistemological anarchy to Moody, who expresses here a deep faith in the facts and the transparency and modesty of the historian.’ (p.87.) Further, ‘The empiricist approach, demonstrated in Moody’s strictures on “myth”, was explicitly anti-teleological, anti-theoretical and determined to separate itself from myth or fiction.’ (Ibid., p.89.) ‘Edwards’ and Moody’s project was a time of consolidation of a very recently disputed legitimacy [of the Irish state; ...] Hegelian narrativity was impossible for them, precisely because of the complex, contradictory and debatable character of the legal-political arrangements on the island. For the founding fathers of modern Irish history-writing, the nation and the state were neither singular nor coincident, nor were they beyond dispute.’ (Ibid., p.92.) ‘What must be said about the focus on “mythic criticism” by both Moody and Lyons, however, is that these writers appeared, in the 1970s, not to have absorbed the debates about the nature of myth that had occupied notable French structuralist writers, such as Roland Barthes and Claude Levi-Strauss.’ McCarthy goes on to lists Althusser, Foucault and Hayden White and characterises Tom Dunne, Ciaran Brady and M. A. G. Ó Tuaithaigh ‘cautious gatekeepers[,] fully two decades later’. (p.98.) ‘Simply to dismiss “myths” as morally dangerous tales told to manipulate their audiences politically may also be to dismiss the discursive communities in which they circulate. Seen in this light, such pronouncements also arroagate to historians the moral, professional and epistemological “high ground” [...]’ (p.99.)

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Quotations
A New History of Ireland’, in Irish Historical Studies, Vol. XVI, No. 63 (March 1969), offprint [17pp.]: ‘[...] a stocktaking (still in progress) of the achievement of those years [1937-1967] in Irish historiography’; ‘intensive research on large range of special subjects … general history has tended to become ossified’; ‘New History of Ireland … a large scale cooperative history of Ireland, in 12 to 14 vols., to be written on a agreed plan by the best qualified scholars available. It should be social history in the broad scense, that is, history in which not only government but the other primary institutions of society would have their proper place and in which economic and cultural environment should receive proper attention.’ (p.3.) Moody indicates that the late development of economic history in Ireland requires a two-stage project, devoted to ‘general history in two or more volumers of texts, together with a volume of reference material on bibliography, chronology, succession lists, statistical tables, documents, maps, plans, and an index’; (Stage I) and the ‘multi-volume history of the original proposal’ (Stage II). Further, ‘[I]n both stages the hsitory must be written so as to cater for an educated pulic, and not only for specialists’ (p.5.) ‘The whole enterprise rests ont eh the conviction that history, the study of human thought and action in the stream of time, in so far as they can be reconstructed in the mind from the surviving evidence, [5] achieves its highest fulfilment only when it is intelligible to men as such and not as mere historians.’ (pp.5-6.); ‘fulltime secretariat’ called a ‘cardinal point’ (p.6.) also makes grateful allusion to Dr. Patrick Hillery and Brian Lenihan, successive ministers of education in the Republic, and Mr. H. V. Kirk, the NI Minister; Dr. Liam O’Sullivan, secretary of the New History at the RIA; American scholarship represented by the American Committee for Irish Studies (ACIS) from 1967-68, its inaugural year [bibl. ftn., first annual report in by Lawrence J. McCaffrey, in IHS, XVI, No. 62, pp.203-06, Sept. 1968]; calls for work on Irish migration [sic] to US and Irish migration to UK; cites Thomas Davis lectures on RTÉ since 1953]. Moody adds in a footnote: ‘I should like to know whether the group-consciousness that was being shown in the 1890s by Americans who called themselves “Scotch-Irish” was a reaction against that Irish-American nationalism so brilliantly interpreted by T. N. Brown ([viz.,] Irish-American Bationalism, 1870-1890, in Irish Historical Studies, XV, pp.438-45.)’

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Irish History and Irish Mythology’ [valedictory lecture. 1977], in Hermethena CXXIV (Summer 1978), pp.7-24: ‘The past is dead. Nothing, for good or ill, can change it; nothing can revive it. Yet there is a sense in which the past lives on, in works of human hands and minds, in beliefs, institutions, and values, and in all of us, who are its living extension ... Myth-making is an ancient Irish industry, of which the origin-legends and heroic tales of early and medieval Ireland are a characteristic product. But the myths I have in mind all took shape within the past four centuries, and are still more or less current. [...] What might be called the ‘catholic-separatist’ myth emerged in the early seventeenth century [...].’ (Cont.)

Irish History and Irish Mythology' (1977) - cont.: ‘History is a matter of facing the facts of the Irish past, however painful they may be; mythology is a way of refusing to face the historical facts. The study of history not only enlarges truth about our past, but also opens the mind to the reception of ever new accessions of truth. On the other hand, the obsession with myths, and especially the more destructive myths, perpetuates the closed mind.’ (Rep. in Interpreting Irish History: The Debate on Historical Revisionism, ed. Ciaran Brady, Dublin: IAP 1994, pp.71-86; quoted in Conor McCarthy, Irish Modernisation: Crisis and Culture in Ireland, 1969-1992, Four Courts Press 2000, p.85; also in Liam Harte, Satellite Lect., MA Dip., UUC, Feb. 2003.)

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