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 Joyces 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 Wildes remark: any one can make history. Only a great man can write it. But we also accept our professional obligations with Wildes irreverent but subtly sophisticated observation, The one duty we owe to history is to re-write it. (p.xiv.)