Thomas Hachey, Joseph Hernon & Lawrence J. McCaffrey, The Irish Experience: A Concise History (NY: M.E. Sharpe 1996)

While reflecting on Irish history, one must confess, as did James Joyce in Ulysses: “History is a [sic] nightmare from which I am trying to aware”. And so much of Irish history reads like a Greek tragedy that the reader must also agree with Joyce in Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: “Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow.” Moreover, it is difficult to view much of Irish history after the Anglo-Norman conquest other than, in Joyce’s words, through “the cracked looking glass [sic] of a servant”.

Nevertheless the authors of this text will attempt the impossible: to paint an artistic and insightful portrait of a broad expanse of Irish history. We confess our limitations with Oscar Wilde’s remark: “any one can make history. Only a great man can write it.” But we also accept our professional obligations with Wilde’s irreverent but subtly sophisticated observation, “The one duty we owe to history is to re-write it.” (p.xiv.)

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