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British Policy Towards Ireland 1921-1941
Format: HardcoverChange
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on 7 July 2001
This is a standard work of 'diplomatic history', utilising all the sources one would expect of a historian examining the relationship between two countries. This was the first book to look at the travails of Anglo-Irish relations during the 1920s and 1930s, and thus has become the definitive study of this area. Canning begins his account with the signing of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty which led to the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922. This gave the newly independent Ireland dominion status within the British empire. However, from the very beginning the Treaty was opposed, splitting Sinn Fein down the middle and leading to the Irish Civil War between 1922-23. The book charts the British approach towards the newest dominion within the empire. Inevitably, the relationship was more than a little troubled even with the putatively pro-Treaty government that was in power throughout the 1920s. Canning's account highlights the varying attitudes towards Ireland of the ministers and officials in Britain. These include figures like Sir Warren Fisher, head of the Treasury for much of the period, who worked tirelessly to get his political masters to take a less hard-line attitude toward the Free State, particularly after the anti-Treaty Eamon de Valera came to power in 1932. He was to have some success with Neville Chamberlain, who originally had been a Cabinet hawk when it came to Ireland for most of the 1930s, but who went on to sign the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1938. Other prominent figures include Winston Churchill, who became one of the defenders of the Free State during the 1920s, but turned against its government during the 1930s when de Valera began to dismember the 1921 Treaty, of which Churchill had been one of the chief architects. The book mainly rests on British official documents and the private papers of many of the key individuals. The book's main focus is on Britain, and so there is relatively little treatment of events in Ireland itself. The book remains, the standard account of Anglo-Irish relations during the interwar period.
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on 5 August 2013
This book does not pretend to be a comprehensive outline of all the events during the period. It states that it is only from a British point of view.That point is laid clear from the outset but it is still a disappointment that the Irish viewpoint is missing.It does not, though, substract from its value. You can see very clearly how the line of thinking changes over the twenty years which is interesting in itself.

It, however, only makes me more interested in the period and the Irish thinking on the matters involved.What I cannot understand is why it stops in 1941. There are many occurences which happen in that period, such as the German bombing of Dublin, which would be better understood if the Irish viewpoint were explained. Why is the rest of the period of WW2 not covered? - a great pity. Or why is not covered the post war period when Eire officially became a republic and left the Commonwealth in 1949?

In a nutshell, this is an interesting book but rather lobsided - the Irish documents on the period would have been gems.
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