Profile for Brian Phelan > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Brian Phelan
Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,607,450
Helpful Votes: 87

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Brian Phelan

Page: 1
Atlas of the Great Irish Famine
Atlas of the Great Irish Famine
by John Crowley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £44.00

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'The' Great Irish Famine Book, 28 Dec. 2012
A wonderful production.

Be warned it's heavy and you'll need to place it on a table when reading it.

Illustrations are superb.

I'm reluctant to use the word 'definitive' but if any book can be called that this is it.

The Famine Plot: England's Role in Ireland's Greatest Tragedy
The Famine Plot: England's Role in Ireland's Greatest Tragedy
Price: £7.59

25 of 58 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tim Pat loses the plot, 9 Dec. 2012
The author likes to accuse others of suffering from 'colonial cringe' i.e. a subservient attitude to the former colonial masters.

This book left me with the feeling that he wanted us (the Irish) to not just remember the tragedy of the famine but to keep beating our nearest neighbour over the head with it. This is an attitude I'd call post-colonial victimhood syndrome.

I found the Nazi related references crude and unconvincing. Dragging in Belsen, Goebbels and untermenshen didn't really further his case for calling the famine 'genocide'. If it was genocide, then what about the reduction of the native american people to 250,000 by 1900? This was achieved with the help of many Irish emigrants by displacement and smallpox rather than famine and typhoid. Wouldn't that make them accessories to genocide?

He likes to quote that other journalist John Mitchel (1815-75) "God sent the potato blight but England created the famine" but when that was written in 1860 JM was in America and a strong supporter of the white man's right to own slaves. Hardly a universal human-rights stand.

In the introduction he describes the Irish government at the time of the 150th anniversary in 1995 as a "right-wing Fine Gael government". This was a government, also including the Labour Party and Democratic Left, that abolished third level fees. Hardly what I would call right-wing but maybe TPC has a different definition.

Apart from the above, it was reasonably well written so I won't give it the lowest score.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 7, 2014 8:48 AM BST

Cycling in Victorian Ireland
Cycling in Victorian Ireland
by Brian Griffin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.54

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Velocipedes, Ordinarys, Scorchers and Rational Dress for Women, 4 Jan. 2011
Although it is an academic work by Dr. Brian Griifin of Bath University he manages to enliven the text with anecdotes and over 100 illustrations. The book starts with a short resumé of the history of the 'bicycle' from the 'dandy horse' of the early 19th C. to the invention in Paris of the 'velocipede' in 1864, shortly thereafter to be introduced to Ireland.

Britain with Ireland were both involved in the developement of the 'bicycle' and 'tricycle' with Ireland's greatest contribution being the pnumatic tyre of John Boyd Dunlop, a Scot living in Ireland.

The book is more concerned with the social than the technological developments associated with cycling and draws on extensive research to illustrate how Irish society reacted to its introduction.

I would have liked to have seen the addition of an index but otherwise I found it a very interesting read.

Europe at War 1939-1945: No Simple Victory
Europe at War 1939-1945: No Simple Victory
by Norman Davies
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Moving the Centre of Gravity Eastward, 1 Nov. 2009
I had read this authors book 'Europe - A History' and was just starting to read his book 'Microcosm' about the history of Breslau when I went away for a few days and forgot to take it with me. Searching in a bookshop for something to read I came across a copy of 'Europe at War 1939-45' and bought it.

I wasn't as impressed with this book as I was by the others I had read. I would be sympathetic with his stated aim of giving the Eastern Front its rightful place as the theatre where the forces of Nazism were really defeated. Having said that I felt his thesis that certain historians were wrong to describe the war in Europe as "Hiter's War" and by implication it should have been described more as "Hitler and Stalin's War" tended to downplay the crucial role of Hitler as instigator and mastermind of agression.

While Stalin was quite prepared to take advantage of the situation from Sept. 1939 to June 1941 to annex Eastern Poland, the Baltic states and attack Finland it was the racially motivated agressive policy to redraw the map of Europe pursued by the Nazi regime which brought about the war.

In his section 'further reading' at the end of the book he recommends Richard Evans first two volumes on the Third Reich, "The Coming of the Third Reich"The Coming of the Third Reichand "The Third Reich in Power"The Third Reich in Power, 1933-1939: How the Nazis Won Over the Hearts and Minds of a Nation. To these can be added his final volume "The Third Reich at War" The Third Reich at War: How the Nazis Led Germany from Conquest to Disaster (Allen Lane History)which was published subsequently. Reading these books will leave one in no doubt that Hitler planned the war in Europe from the early 1920's, not in detail but its broad outlines.

I found some of the writing style in this book irritating such as his comparison of the destruction visited on Warsaw during the Rising of 1944 with that on New York on Sept. 11 2001 and his account of Hitler and Mussolini assisting the Fascists in Spain while Stalin is described as aiding the overthrow of the Republic.

The book shines light on certain forgotten areas of the conflict and rightly emphasises the scale and importance of the Eastern Front but this is a rebalancing that is already happening in modern books on WWII anyway.

The other strand in this book is the indictment of Stalin and the Soviet regime as criminal and murderous. I think there are few (in the West at least)who would quibble with this but sometimes he strays into the trap of downplaying the evil nature of the Nazis to emphasise the equivalent, as he would see it, evil of Soviet Russia.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 4, 2010 10:09 PM GMT

Homage to Al-Andalus: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain
Homage to Al-Andalus: The Rise and Fall of Islamic Spain
by Michael B. Barry
Edition: Hardcover

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Homage to Michael Barry, 12 Jun. 2009
I visited the Alhambra above Granada more than twenty years ago and can still remember the impression this architectual jewel had upon me. It was the desire to learn more about the people who built this exquisite palace that motivated me to read this book.

Al Andalus, not to be confused with Andalucia was the name given to the area of the iberian peninsula under islamic rule from the begining of the eight century to the end of the fifteenth century.

The author is not a professional historian but being an enthusiastic amateur equips him perfectly to produce a work easily accessible to the general reader.

If you are new to this historical subject you will find 'Homage to Al-Andalus' the perfect introduction. It will whet your appetite for further reading and the superb photographs (most taken by the author) will inspire you to travel and marvel at the surviving remains of Islamic Spain.

Michael Barry shows how the very success of Al-Andalus contained the seeds of its own eventual destruction and the threat from a new islamic but this time non-arab empire (the Ottoman turks)eventually heralded the end of the Nasrid dynasty that built the Alhambra.

Not a book for the specialist academic but ideal for anyone wanting to broaden their minds by reading about an interesting era that contributed greatly to both european and world civilisation.

The Island That Dared: Journeys in Cuba
The Island That Dared: Journeys in Cuba
by Dervla Murphy
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Supergran does Cuba, 9 Dec. 2008
Having recently returned from a two week independent tour of Cuba with very mixed feelings about the place I was interested to see the dynamic Dervla was bringing out a book on the island.
The first hundred pages are about her experiences while on a tour of eastern Cuba with her daughter and three grandaughters (the trio as she calls them)which I found all a bit too domestic but then for the following three hundred pages we get vintage Dervla as she returns for two solo trips around the rest of the island.
With her usual scorn for modern conveniences she travels by every clapped out means of transport she can find and when she can't find any she just walks. On route, she meets and talks to scores of ordinary Cubans whose views are reported without fear or favour.
The book is laced with a plentiful supply of historical fact and political polemic. While the authors own sympathies for what she calls Castroism are very evident she nevertheless has plenty of criticism for the regimes failings.
This is the real 'rough guide' to Cuba.
Minor criticisms are the poor illustrations and a number of typo errors but I'll lay them at the door of the publisher as Dervla Murphy is a secular saint(of travellers)in my humble opinion.

If you are interested in Cuba, go and buy it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 13, 2008 11:36 AM GMT

Page: 1