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on 3 January 2008
Having garnered controversay in his debates with Meda Ryan, Hart sets out to do the same again by painting Collins as an unimportant, disliked power grabber whos acheivements (which Hart thinks little of) could have been accomplished by any of the few thousand men involved in the struggle at the time.

In the introduction Hart sets out to create a completely researched work which will become the starting place for all future Collins research. The first chapter on Collins's childhood is mainly a re-hashing of Tim Pat Coogans work, before adding the only new material in the book, Micks time in England in various financial institutions and his carear in the GAA, which to my knowledge has never been invistigated in any previous biographies. At this stage I would recommend the reader to put the book down. From here on in he goes back to re-hashing Coogan as well as adding his own side, sometimes snide, comments, such as reffering to Collins and Boland as "Bakers in Chief" when they sent a cake to de Valera with a key in it when in Lincon Jail. Hart seems to be of the openion that people who read the book are more interested in him and his "witty" remarks as apposed to Collins. He is sadly mistaken.

I would only recomend it for the second and third chapters, and then just bearly.
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on 30 November 2008
Peter Hart has clearly done a lot of homework. This effort bearly scrapes the rating of this book up to two stars.

Notwithstanding the research effort, Mr. Hart has managed to present a negative spin about the achievements of one of the most important figures in Irish history. Any positive sentiment is more than counterbalanced by a retrospective rationalising that anyone could have made the same contribution to history. Not only is this a totally spurious suggestion, it consigns this work to one of conjecture as distinct from a worthy historical commentary.

Critically, Mr. Hart misses the opportunity to set the escalation of conflict in the context of the impact on ordinary citizens and how the decisions Collins made impacted on that. Instead we are overloaded with quotes of minor significance, at most confirming that the research was done.

On the point of formatting, Mr. Hart needs a new editor. Sentences meander tortuously. The grammatical structure needs attention, in particular an irritating habit of inserting multiple points within brackets tangental to the point being made. Get to the point and stick to it !

On a second point of formatting, Mr. Hart has gone to the trouble of providing more than forty pages of notes, which have not been referenced in the text. Having discovered this wealth of references, one has to search the text to find the relevance.

In summary, this book could easily have been shortened by a quarter. It was significantly cheaper than other works on this subject, but definitely not a saving.

I would avoid another Peter Hart book.
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on 12 April 2006
This book promises so much and yet seems to deliver little.

I cannot understand why Peter Hart bothered to research a biography of a man whose reputation he cannot understand and whom he appears to consider an insignificant footnote in Irish history "...It is wrong to pick out Collins as someone apart in his daring or courage: he was nothing special in this regard."

Peter Hart makes no attempt to acknowledge or explain the legend which has grown up around the memory of Michael Collins. He is at great pains to emphasise the poor qualities of the man and his limitations as leader, politician and friend; presumably in an attempt to balance other, more favourable, biographies.

If this book (as the cover jacket blurb suggests) does "... become the definitive work..." on Collins, it will be the magic, the humanity of his memory, which will be lost forever.
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on 9 March 2007
This is the latest in a long line of books about Michael Collins, most of the previous bios easily fall under the mystique of the great commander and intelligence chief.

Collins was neither as Hart quite carefully argues. In reality Collins was a sort of accountant who worked his way to the top of Irish politics through sheer force of personality.

Along the way he made many enemies, was a grumpy workaholic who gave himself to the cause and was instrumental in the foundation of the Irish state.

Hart does not completely demolish the icongraphy carefully built up around Collins but he does add news insight some of it hard on his subject but none the less fair and insightful.

One would need to have a strong interest in Irish history to digest this book, none the less it is a good read, particularly on Collins personality and outlining the political and social context in which he made his decisions.

It does emphasise how complex Irish history is, how one thinks one knows the central characters when in fact the reality is way more complex and multi layered. Hart is certainly one of the great historians of Irish history and unlike others is not dazzled by his subject.
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VINE VOICEon 24 January 2008
What disappointed me so much about this book was the lack of perspective. Whether Collins was great in himself or had greatness thrust upon him, he is an enormous figure in Irish history, especially given how short his life was.

Yes, indeed, Collins is surrounded by many myths and even sentiment. But the sentiment - or even love - that so many people felt for him is surely something the historian needs to understand and explain rather than ridicule.
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on 31 August 2007
I picked this book up without reading the reviews and started this with much anticipation of it been a great book with detailed insight and shedding new light on Michael Collins. Unfortunately, from the very start the author begins his own assaination of Michael Collins. He begins by ridiculing all the other published material on Collins is some form or another, i.e. previous books had dubious access to Collins letters and they did not use published sources, therefore they cannot be trusted.
The books then sets out to list a plethora of claims to show the most flawed character since Hitler... that as Collins only achieved a grade "C" in a particular exam he was to quote a "plebe". It goes down hill pretty fast after this ending in the gutter describing Collins as a Coward (he claimed to have injury in the fighting in 1916, couldn't fire a weapon, he considered running off to America, he only left London to avoid the draft for the British Army) he was bad at sport, had a chip on his shoulder, wasn't liked by his peer...he didn't write to his brother therefore was a "mean" character...this particular one is my favourite given that he was been hunted by Crown forces day and night, organising a war etc...I do not think many people would find the time under those circumstances. The chapters that cover the war of independence read like something from a David Irving book...total revisionist.

The author really fails to grasp some essential understanding of what it was like for Collins and his peers to have been born, raised, and educated in a country occupied by an often-brutal regime. That he and others placed their lives on the line often without much gratitude or understanding of the wider population showed that whilst the difficult, dangerous and tragic circumstances of that war may have brought out traits that were not great, i.e. aggressive, bullying and selfish behaviour, these traits according to Hart were the soul characteristics of Collins. He really fails to show there was also a supreme willingness by Collins and a raft of others to give up there lives for a greater future and to give the people of Ireland the opportunity to do this as a Free people, complete with our flaws.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 April 2007
There are few people in modern Irish history who loom larger than Michael Collins, 'The Big Fellow' who more than any other individual is credited with winning independence for Ireland. In a matter of a few short years he emerged from the ranks of the Republican movement to become one of the key figures in the struggle against British rule. His early death as a result of an ambush in the subsequent civil war gave him the aura of a lost leader, laden with the possibilities of what might have been. In this book, Peter Hart seeks to penetrate beneath the many legends surrounding Collins in order to get at the truth behind this famous figure.

Faced with the stories and misconceptions about Collins's life (many of which were of his own making), Hart bases his narrative on the extensive documentary evidence about his subject's life. The Collins that emerges is not a great guerrilla figure but a master bureaucrat, one whose organizational abilities and work ethic were both the keys to his rise and his great contribution to victory. These skills were the product of his years in London, where he worked as a postal clerk and spent his free time in various Irish social organizations. His subsequent rise through the ranks of the Irish revolutionary leadership was aided by the loss of the top leadership in the aftermath of the Dublin rising in 1916. The loss of most of the senior leadership created opportunities that Collins exploited to the fullest, gaining positions of authority in which his managerial talent ensured a flow of money, supplies, and (most critically) intelligence to the members of the IRA in the field.

Hart's achievement in uncovering the real Michael Collins from the layers of myth that built up over the years is impressive, providing a truer assessment of his role in Irish independence than any previous biography. His detective work on Collins's time in London is especially exemplary here, illuminating a part of his subject's life often overshadowed by his subsequent achievements. People seeking the Collins of legend would be better off watching Neil Jordan's hagiographic depiction, but for those wanting to discover the true Michael Collins, this is the book to read.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 April 2007
There are few people in modern Irish history who loom larger than Michael Collins, 'The Big Fellow' who more than any other individual is credited with winning independence for Ireland. In a matter of a few short years he emerged from the ranks of the Republican movement to become one of the key figures in the struggle against British rule. His early death as a result of an ambush in the subsequent civil war gave him the aura of a lost leader, laden with the possibilities of what might have been. In this book, Peter Hart seeks to penetrate beneath the many legends surrounding Collins in order to get at the truth behind this famous figure.

Faced with the stories and misconceptions about Collins's life (many of which were of his own making), Hart bases his narrative on the extensive documentary evidence about his subject's life. The Collins that emerges is not a great guerrilla figure but a master bureaucrat, one whose organizational abilities and work ethic were both the keys to his rise and his great contribution to victory. These skills were the product of his years in London, where he worked as a postal clerk and spent his free time in various Irish social organizations. His subsequent rise through the ranks of the Irish revolutionary leadership was aided by the loss of the top leadership in the aftermath of the Dublin rising in 1916. The loss of most of the senior leadership created opportunities that Collins exploited to the fullest, gaining positions of authority in which his managerial talent ensured a flow of money, supplies, and (most critically) intelligence to the members of the IRA in the field.

Hart's achievement in uncovering the real Michael Collins from the layers of myth that built up over the years is impressive, providing a truer assessment of his role in Irish independence than any previous biography. His detective work on Collins's time in London is especially exemplary here, illuminating a part of his subject's life often overshadowed by his subsequent achievements. People seeking the Collins of legend would be better off watching Neil Jordan's hagiographic depiction, but for those wanting to discover the true Michael Collins, this is the book to read.
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on 29 September 2013
A good account of a very troubled time. A man of great ability and his assassination was a tragedy for the nascent Irish State.
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on 31 August 2012
Hart clearly sets out to be controversial from the start. I have no problem with anyone writing the truth or the truth in the way they see it but Hart bends it,does everything he can to paint the man in a bad light, really disgusting in my opinion, yes i am biased as i regard Michael Collins as the greatest Irshman rhat ever lived, yes he had many faults, could be very cruel to those around him, a bit of a bully in fact but also he had a heart of gold and the plight of the nation first unlike De valera who clearly had De valera first ( the self proclaimed President)I have read this book taken from the library as i had heard many bad stories of it and refuse to pay money into Harts pocket to blacken this great man. Hart if you were one tenth the man Collins was youd still be just half a man
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