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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
The Story of Ireland
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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 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 9 July 2017
...as my countryman George Bernard Shaw put it. As I understand it, this is the book of a TV series, which I have never seen. However, it relates very well the story of a soggy green island and its unfortunate relations with the next-door neighbours who couldn't keep their noses out. It's not a particularly profound, thorough or scholarly work, but in my opinion it does capture a very nice overview of the whole sweep of Irish history from the earliest times right up to the present. Anyone wanting to know more about Irish history could do worse than by starting with this excellent little volume.
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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 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 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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on 10 March 2017
For a long time I'd wanted to read a thorough history of Ireland so was determined to complete the book. Unfortunately much of it was heavy going and felt like walking through treacle. The problem perhaps, is that by trying to encompass such a wide period, it's hard to bring the central characters to life and therefore take sufficient interest in their actions. This problem is less apparent in the well-worn developments of the past century or so but even then events are covered at breakneck speed.
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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 5 April 2017
A great book sets a few things straight all Brits should read this book.
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on 13 October 2017
Excellent read, book in good condition
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