Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reads for Fun: R. F. Foster's "The Oxford History of Ireland"

I mentioned in an earlier post that my current Reads for Fun wasn’t being much fun. It isn’t that The Oxford history of Ireland isn’t informative; it’s just dull as dishwater. Some historians can write well. The contributors to this volume can’t, unless they’re doing copy for Nytol ads.

If you can bear the drudgery, though, there’s a lot of fascinating background information here that fills in the gaps of the longstanding rivalry between Catholics and Protestants on the Emerald Isle – showing that it isn’t simply one of those “religion poisons everything” fights, but something rooted deeply in the politics of Ireland’s history as a somewhat uncomfortable member of the British Empire. The Irish psyche, from what these authors say, has been deeply affected by this relationship; comparisons might even be drawn to the treatment of certain Native American tribes.

I’d say more if this book were more memorable, but it wasn’t. For example, it describes battles that occurred in various wars in ways that make the accounts of wars in the Book of Mormon look like high drama. Hopefully my next one will be more fun.

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