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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 2 May 2011
As a history student who has ploughed through many books on Irish history in the course of research, I would say this is a rare, perhaps unique, example of a text that gives you a comprehensive sense of the main currents of Irish history, while still being entertaining to read and easily digestible. Neil Hegarty's style is light and accomplished, making you feel that you are in the company of a writer who not only has the central developments of each major phase of this story at his fingertips, but who is also able to offer reliable, well considered, yet pithy, sometimes witty judgments on the significance of key events and historical actors. A central insight and achievement of this book is the way in which it reveals the simultaneous operation of several different processes and influences in the main phases of Irish history: the divisions within the island itself, and the impact of international forces and transformations. This history forges a new path in offering a way of approaching the 'Irish story' that is not dominated by the teleological account of the progress towards national independence in the Republic, proving at the same time that the complexities of Irish history need not be confined to the intricacies (or the partisanship) of scholarly debate, but can be a fun adventure for the ordinary reader. An ideal introduction to Ireland's past for anyone who has little knowledge of it, and a pleasurable new illumination of familiar territory for those who have some.
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on 8 May 2011
This book is indeed "The Story of Ireland". Hegarty tells the story in a fluid and accessible way and with wry humour. His command of the material is obvious but he doesn't feel the need to show off his expertise, rather he invites us to share his enjoyment as he takes us through the journey from the 5th century to the present day. This is an excellent overview of Irish history. For anyone new to the subject it is an ideal introduction and to those with some knowledge it will bring some new insights.
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on 27 April 2011
Neil Hegarty provides a fresh look at well-trod ground in an engaging and often humorous style. It's impressive that he spans Ireland's history from geological formation to the current financial crisis in a little over 300 pages. While this necessitates skimming the surface of some topics, there's plenty here that may surprise even the dedicated Irish history reader. Although written to accompany the BBC/RTE series, I like the book far better and found it much more informative.

Fergal Keane's intro is dry and seems a bit disconnected from the book's meaty content. I found this also was true in his narration of the accompanying BBC series. There's too much Fergal's personal Ireland for my taste.
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on 20 May 2013
I have been looking for a good introduction to Irish history for quite a while. I found that The Story of Ireland was very easy to get in to and easy to follow. It didn't go into much detail about a lot of the events, which isn't surprising as it isn't a very long book, but I feel that it gave me a good overview and if I want to extend my knowledge I will use the Further Reading as a basis for this.

The only major annoyance I had with this book is that there weren't enough maps. There were six dotted throughout the text, but I felt that often Hegarty referred to places he seemed to assume I would know the position of, that weren't portrayed in the maps that are available. So I think that more maps and perhaps direct references to them within the text would help. And final quibble - I would have liked a brief list of the political parties at the back of the book with the timeline (which is very useful), just to help remind me what all the initials stand for.

Overall though, an excellent introduction to the history of Ireland, and I highly recommend it. It took me less than a week to read it as it was so absorbing!
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on 5 August 2011
Coming from Mayo people who came to Scotland in the 1920's, I really enjoyed the book. The earlier histories are well documented and very interesting to read but the book really disappoints in the 20th Century material: particularly in the sorely abject lack of any much criticism of Eamon De Valera (avoiding the London treaty talks and sending Collins to be the 'fall guy', his proactive political role in the Civil War that followed, the political 'balance' of neutrality during WWII and the acceptance and encouragement of Irish emigration throughout much of the 20th Century). Authors such as Tim Pat Coogan provide a powerful counterpoint critique of de Valera's Ireland and while I didn't expect these views to be endorsed by this author, this section falls well short of any hard analysis of one of Ireland's major figureheads during the 20th Century.

A very interesting and enjoyable read, perfect for a skim of the times but falls short in modern age.
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on 27 July 2012
Having seen the associated TV series fronted by Feargal Keane, which did a sterling job of reviewing (and in some cases re-evaluating) strands in Irish history, I was interested in getting this book; in the main, it works very well - the style is very digestible without skimping on essential details, although I, like another reviewer, felt that the 20th century was not dealt with in the same detail as previous periods. Tim Pat Coogan's book, "Ireland in the 20th Century", has in this respect a more focussed aspect, although clearly written with a nationalist sympathy/angle.

This caveat apart, the book to my mind serves as an essential and up to date primer for those needing an overview of Irish history - it presents a balanced argument about the plusses and minuses of the various connections with Britain, but does not shirk from criticism where this is warranted. It serves well as a guide for both Irish and British readers and would help to offset that old cliché, "The Irish never forget their history, the British never remember theirs"...
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 21 April 2012
Neil Hegarty takes us through the key events in the development of Ireland, both North and South of the border, from its geological formation to the present. Given that this is achieved in just 326 pages the content is a little light in places. For example although written in 2011, the events of the last 50 years or so are covered in just 20 pages, and those who want to learn more of the political and social changes which have taken place, as well as the rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger economy will need to supplement their reading elsewhere.

Nonetheless, this is a highly readable and informative history, which explains the key events in what feels to be an even handed and unbiased manner.
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on 11 November 2014
After a visit to Ireland this summer i realised my knowledge of Ireland's past history was fairly brief so decided to learn up on its past. I liked the TV series which was based on this book so it seemed a reasonable place to start. If you want an readable overview of Irish History over the past 2000 years its a good read. Its quite a balanced book showing that Ireland has not always been a victim and that its story is more than just conquest and rebellion. A good read for a person wanting a readable overview of Irish History
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on 2 September 2011
I realised from the TV series how ignorant I was of Irish history so decided to buy a book and this had high ratings on Amazon. The book has certainly taught me a great deal and appears to be even-handed. However, I found the early chapters a little turgid and, as a whole, I feel the book lacks insight and analysis. After the expectation, it was a disappointment.
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on 29 April 2011
''I found this book immensely enjoyable. Being an Irishman living in England I sometimes forget about where my roots are to the point of forgetting my history. This book provided a much needed injection of what it means to be Irish. It is such an easy read and it's hard to believe Hegarty is able to cover so much in 300 pages. Moreover Hegarty's writing is accessible and at times very humorous - very unlike the TV show that bears the same name! I would heartily recommend this book to any Irishman at home or abroad, Plastic Paddy real or wannabe."
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