- Paperback: 560 pages
- Publisher: Penguin (29 May 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141030046
- ISBN-13: 978-0141030043
- Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 19.7 cm
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 201,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Republic: The Fight for Irish Independence, 1918-1923 Paperback – 29 May 2014
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Electric ... [a] magisterial and essential book (Roy Foster Irish Times)
[A] tour de force ... wonderful ... brilliantly written history ... Townshend's book can only inspire admiration (John Lee Irish Mail on Sunday)
Highly detailed and rich ... [a] magisterial and judicious narrative ... this must surely be one of the definitive texts on this period of Anglo-Irish history (Mary Kenny Literary Review)
Charles Townshend's monumental work [is] bold in ambition, scope and execution ... a work of broad and confident understanding, characterised by a uniform care in its approach to complex and controversial material ... An intensely compelling and often discomfiting narrative, which candidly explores four years of personal and intimate violence (Tablet)
Magisterial ... intensely gruelling but hugely impressive ... for people who prefer to know the facts ... [a] fine achievement of breathing new life into a subject that some historians might assume had already been done to death (Sunday Business Post)
For those interested in a reliable and empathetic introduction to the topic, this is now the best place to start (BBC History Magazine)
A great read ... it has certainly set a very high standard for others to measure up to (Marianne Elliott Times Higher Education)
A well-sourced, severely objective account of the origins and courses of the wars that followed the Easter Rising (Irish Catholic)
Charles Townshend's The Republic . . . nails the Irish revolutionary events of 1918-23 with his inimitable kind of forensic panache (Roy Foster Times Literary Supplement BOOKS OF THE YEAR)
About the Author
Charles Townshend is the author of the highly praised Easter 1916:The Irish Rebellion. His other books include The British Campaigns in Ireland, 1919-21 and When God Made Hell: The British Invasion of Mesopotamia and the Making of Iraq, 1914-21.
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Townshend begins with the conscription crisis - another piece of disastrous mishandling by a British regime in Dublin Castle - and ends with Aiken's order for republicans to dump arms at the end of the Civil War, and in between we are given a history that focuses as much, or maybe even more, on the civil as the military side of the republican period. Indeed his argument seems to be that the civil achievements of the republican regime were central to its ability to hold down popular support - as nobody, or nearly nobody, had been explicitly told a Sinn Fein was a vote for war in the 1918 election.
The book traces the slowly widening gap between the "militarists" and the "politicians" on the republican side and Townshend's case is that the experienced political operators, the more successful ministers and administrators (including Mulcahy at IV GHQ), were largely the ones who backed the Treaty as they understood what civil power was about. Foremost of these, of course, was Michael Collins, who emerges from this in many ways as a more dynamic civil than military leader.
The book's description of events in the North, especially outside Belfast, is cursory and nor do we quite discover just how the war accelerated though 1919 and into 1920 - at times the book reads like a commentary on accepted history rather than an attempt to outline that history.
But, yes, it's good.
The first part is more the story of the "IRA" in the War of Independence; it's really rather one-sided. There isn't so much information about the British strategy (if there was one) and tactics. The strange period of the two governments/parliaments is really confusing. The parts about the change from "home rule" to "independence" and "republic" could be improved.
What would really help is a greater understanding of British policy, and why they were so concerned to keep Ireland within the Commonwealth; other than references to security, this question isn't really addressed. While it's not really a psychological history, it would help to understand more of the motivations.
It does seem to be "balanced"; the horrors of the Civil War in particular are not whitewashed away, as has so often happened, though the full story of this period probably will never be known.
There's a ludicrous mistake about "Republican Itch" that more or less says that scabies is caused by diet; scabies is an infestation caused by a mite.
Detailed, the product of much research, but sometimes too close to the action, when standing back and trying to see the "big picture" would be better.
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