on 28 May 2013
I purchased this book recently and have been engrossed by its contents ever since. This work is the result of long and extensive archival research, mixed with critical analysis and splendid character examination. We get to hear the true voices of leading English statesmen, from Lloyd George, Churchill and Bonar Law. All students of British government policy towards Ireland will use this work as the basis of their own understanding of this complicated and fascinating subject matter - Prof. Fanning has produced a seminal work in the field of 20th century Anglo-Irish relations.
on 13 December 2014
Fanning provides a masterful dissection of the route to Irish independence from 1910 to 1922. He carefully explains how a partitionist solution was the certain outcome, given the political realities by 1910, with the Liberal party fragmented after decades of wrangling over Irish home rule.
Virtually all the protagonists in the British government harboured visceral anti-Irish Catholic prejudice. Lloyd George knew less about Dublin, a major city of the state where he was Prime Minister, than about Paris. Bonar Law came from Ulster Protestant stock via Canada and regarded the Catholic Irish as an inferior class. When Ulster threatened armed resistance in 1912 the British government were impotent or else colluded. The Ulster Unionists were the true militants.
When in the aftermath of World War and Irish
rebellion. the government sat down with Sinn Fein, as the new representatives of the emerging Irish state, the Irish side was simply outclassed. Lloyd George, Churchill and co. were consummate negotiators, whilst Irish rebels were completely handicapped, without experience of strategy and compromise, unable to take a step backwards to go forwards. In staying away from the negotiations De Valera made a tactical mistake - though perhaps this allowed him the space to repudiate the treaty at a later date.
Ultimately the triumph was Lloyd George's. He showed himself to be the supreme pragmatist. He got Ulster off his back and reached a solution to the Irish issue which meant the country would not trouble Britain for the foreseeable future.
If you just read one book to appreciate the troubled history of John Bull's other isle read this one, which will teach you how the fatal path towards Ireland's independence leads to the present day.
on 22 July 2013
This is a superb work of scholarship and an engrossing read. It details the high politics of Britain's Irish problem from 1912 to 1922 and makes it clear that some kind of partition was inevitable, though the exact outline of the border was up for discussion until late in the day. It is refreshing to have an Irish history written from the vantage point of London and not Ireland as we can see how the preoccupation of British politicians was to get away from the Irish question at the earliest opportunity. It also highlights the weak negotiating tactics of the Irish team that led to the Anglo-Irish treaty. This book concerns itself mainly with the British dimension to the Irish question, therefore nationalist Irish politicians such as Redmond, De Valera etc are not dealt with in any depth. John Redmond is described as "deluded" on two occasions without dealing with why he should be described as such. That is a minor quibble, in an otherwise excellent work. Well done Ronan Fanning.
on 10 July 2015
Fatal Path by Ronan Fanning is a very good book examining the politics of the decades leading up to Irish independence. It is well-written, informative, detailed and provides interesting arguments about the success or otherwise of paramilitary activities on shaping the political process surrounding Irish Home Rule. Do note that it is not a history of Ireland or Britain in the early part of the twentieth century, it is a narrative of politics, committees and negotiations rather than a general telling of the story of the creation of an independent Ireland. Overall, a very good book.