Irish History and Story

A short series of four talks hosted by Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham.
There’s an enduring connection between Irish writers and the history and politics of Ireland. In this short course, we explore those links, focusing on four key periods. Dr Patrick Murphy gives a short account of the historical and political background, and Dr Deirdre O’Byrne talks briefly on some literary representations of the chosen period. Each session ends with a Q & A session.

All sessions are now available to listen to online, on Five Leaves Bookshop YouTube channel.

All sessions are free, although you may wish to make a donation to Emmanuel House, which helps homeless people in Nottingham.
Find out more about Five Leaves Bookshop events on their website


i) Let Them Eat . . . Babies? Famine in Ireland
Jonathan Swift wrote about the dire condition of Irish peasants in ‘A Modest Proposal’ in 1729. His satire was popular, but did not alleviate poverty in Ireland, as the poetry of the Great Hunger of the 1840s makes clear.
Follow the link to listen free via Five Leaves Bookshop channel on YouTube.


ii) Listen on YouTube via this link:
From ‘the uncrowned King of Ireland’ to Queen of the Fairies

After the fall of Charles Stewart Parnell, many Irish people turned to ancient Irish mythology and older traditions in a morale-boosting movement that became known as the Celtic Twilight, the Irish Renaissance, or the Irish Literary Revival. The writers held several different political viewpoints, from WB Yeats and Katharine Tynan to JM Synge and Pádraig Pearse. James Joyce also comments on the period in his writings.


iii) Listen on YouTube via this link:

Birth of the Nation: Easter 1916, the War of Independence, and Civil War.
Easter 1916 was known as the Poets’ Rising, so many of its leaders were writers. The conflicts arising from the birth of the Irish nation were immortalised in the plays of Seán Ó Casey, short stories of Frank O’Connor and prose and poetry of their contemporaries.


iv) Listen on YouTube via this link:
From Rocking the Cradle to Rocking the System: Radical Sexual Politics
The 1980s in Ireland saw several amendments to the Irish Constitution which affected women’s rights, alongside high-profile events such as the Kerry Babies Tribunal and the death of Ann Lovett. In the 21st century, Ireland has radically changed, with its population voting for rights to abortion, divorce, and same-sex marriage. A brief look at the changing social scene is followed by a discussion of how it has been represented in literature.

Five Leaves Bookshop has supported our group in many valuable ways, including by hosting this series. They have an online website. Order your Irish books (and other books) from independent bookshops. They are a vital resource in supporting community groups, including the Irish diaspora in Britain.
Many thanks to Ross Bradshaw, proprietor of Five Leaves Bookshop, for the initial invitation to run this course, and to colleagues Pippa Hennessy and Simon Griffiths, for invaluable technical support.

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