Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby Jd66 on Sat Dec 10, 2011 4:13 pm

A few points; (at the risk of repeating myself from earlier posts)

Whatever Aubane's motivation I can't take them too seriously as objective commentators - they're too obviously biased.

Re Hart, this is probably old hat at this stage, but the fact is that Hart's work, however much it might annoy people (including me at times), and despite serious flaws in some factual areas, is still streets ahead of most Irish historical writing on the revolutionary period. You won't learn anything from Meda Ryan or Brian Murphy about the social profile of the revolutionaries, the geographic distribution of violence, the nature of guerrilla warfare, but you will from Hart, and because of this, he remains useful to anyone who wants to understand, rather than have their opinion reinforced. I'm really sick and tired of reading on the internet that he is 'discredited' by people who have never read any of his books. Disagree with his conclusions, fine but don't dismiss it because you don't agree with it.

Equating Gerald Murphy and Peter Hart is a false analogy because Murphy is not a historian and has simply invented much of the book's content. His book began as novel and should have stayed that way.

Too much of this kind of debate has been about winning the media argument rather than history - ie poke enough holes in someone's research to claim that their argument is discredited without addressing the actual issue, whether it be sectarianism or the use of assassinations or whatever, in an evidence-based way. Where is the 'anti-revisionists' interpretation of the period? Too often it seems they are seeking to stifle debate rather than open it.

Re the central point the question of sectarianism, in Ireland in 1919 there were deep divisions, religious, social and political, between Catholics and Protestants, but these were not always the same as nationalist v unionist or Irish v British. In Dublin for instance, where about 20% of the population was Protestant, there had been fierce rivalry, including violence, between the Churches over conversions and care of orphans as recently as 1913, but this did not translate into nationalist conflict between Catholics and Protestants in 1916-23, although most Protestants were unionists. But it was also possible to be a Protestant and a militant republican there, eg George Gilmore. It was only where religious and political conflicts overlapped neatly that you saw straightforward sectarian violence - in Ulster and its borderlands, but especially in Belfast and Armagh. In Cork you see a mixture, only a minority of Protestants there were militant loyalists (most were moderate unionists and later Free Staters) but the loyalists element were certainly targetted for this by the IRA ie their houses were burnt and in April 1922, those suspected of being both protestant unionists and informers in West Cork were ruthlessly wiped out.

I think it's a complicated picture and we need debate, not polemics, to understand it.

By the by, this is an article on the Irish Story site about the latest arguments in the Dunmanway controversey, that addresses some of these issues.

http://www.theirishstory.com/2011/11/01 ... ntroversy/
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby Na Fianna Éireann on Sat Dec 10, 2011 5:27 pm

WAS ERNEST O MALLY a protestant
Na Fianna Éireann Fíor inár gCroíthe Neart inár Láimhe Comhsheasmhacht inár dTeanga.
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby Jd66 on Sat Dec 10, 2011 6:12 pm

Na Fianna Éireann wrote:WAS ERNEST O MALLY a protestant


Nope.
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby DrNightdub on Sat Dec 10, 2011 8:46 pm

JD, just to (thankfully) step away from the debate around Hart's work and its relationship with revisionism, you may remember at one point advising me to tread warily with his stats and do my own checking.

The last chapter in his "The IRA at War" deals largely with the conflict in Belfast from 1920-22. For someone who set such store by the scrupulous statistical underpinning of his work, he makes a number of fairly sweeping generalisations:

"This assumes that all IRA members were Catholic and that they or other nationalist gunmen were responsible for all the military, police and Protestant casualties. In fact some Protestants were probably shot by co-religionists or security forces, and some Catholics were likely shot by the IRA. It is impossible to say for sure in many cases, but the numbers were not large and would have cancelled each other out to some degree." [my emphasis]

That to me looks like an awful lot of hedging and qualifications. Now, if he'd checked, he'd've found that:
- The military did account for a significant proportion of Protestant casualties
- There were people killed in their front rooms by stray rounds, impossible to say whose stray rounds
- There were actually quite a number of what, today, we'd call "friendly fire" incidents - military shooting Specials, one (accidental, obviously) of an IRA man killed by a comrade and numerous instances of Protestants targetting Protestants in the mistaken belief their victims were from the other side
- One pivotal death - the policeman whose killing sparked the "Arnon St killings" - was blamed by the police on the IRA, the military said there was no shooting from the Catholic street named by the police, a resident said the policeman was shot by the military and (implausible, I know) the IRA said he was deliberately shot by other police to provide justification for what followed

That's not to say the vast majority of killings weren't committed by the other side as Hart suggests, nor does it discredit his work in its totality. But it does suggest, at best, some sloppy thinking.
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby thepremier on Sat Dec 10, 2011 8:52 pm

Jd66 wrote:Re Hart, this is probably old hat at this stage, but the fact is that Hart's work, however much it might annoy people (including me at times), and despite serious flaws in some factual areas, is still streets ahead of most Irish historical writing on the revolutionary period. You won't learn anything from Meda Ryan or Brian Murphy about the social profile of the revolutionaries, the geographic distribution of violence, the nature of guerrilla warfare, but you will from Hart, and because of this, he remains useful to anyone who wants to understand, rather than have their opinion reinforced. I'm really sick and tired of reading on the internet that he is 'discredited' by people who have never read any of his books. Disagree with his conclusions, fine but don't dismiss it because you don't agree with it.


Hart is unfairly targeted, I would agree, purely because he was so obvious with what so many other academics do but get away with. However that he is superior in quality to other Irish academics? In no sense have I ever found that to be the case. His data are unreliable and his analysis is skewed. His social profiling comes, not from a good application of social science, but from severely biased counter-insurgency rhetoric, and even in that, he is very much behind William Kautt. As a student I gained a great deal of insight from Brian Murphy and Meda Ryan, amongst others, but the principal thing I learnt from Peter Hart was how not to do it. Joost Augusteijn is another who uses the counter-insurgency method of social "analysis", but at least his data are fairly accurate.

ETA: DrNightclub, you could go through any section of either of Hart's books and find many, many such prevarications, which is why I left them severely alone.
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby Jd66 on Sat Dec 10, 2011 10:47 pm

Kieran, good points, and yeah, that tends to be the problem, he's sloppy about details where they don't suit his argument.

Premier, as above, but I'd advise you to read Hart's stuff, just don't leave your critical faculties at the door.

Re Ryan, I don't want to personalise things, but in my opinion there's not much in the way of serious analysis in her work, nor is it very factually reliable. For instance, how can you write a biography of Tom Barry and leave out the fact that (a) he was expelled from the IRA in 1924 for suggesting surrendering guns to the Free state and (b) he suffered from alcoholism for much of his life?

The point about Hart's work (though clearly there are lots of problems with it), is that it did bring people to lots of new sources and provoke new debate. In moderated form, many of his arguments are still important -eg many casualties in 1919-21 were assassinated rather than killed in combat, there was a sectarian dimension to the war of Independence, most Vol.s were 'respectable' working class or lower middle class types. Farmers were under-represented. Etc

I wouldn't really rely on Hart for details because he took too many short cuts, but he doesn't deserve to be written off with 'discredited' either. And if he is lets say, 'superceded' by arguments which are backed by evidence, then lets hear those arguments as explanations of thoe questions he raised of the period, rather than tying to shut down any criticism of the IRA.
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby DrNightdub on Sun Dec 11, 2011 1:46 am

In all fairness to Hart, his comment "Step forward the draper's assistants of Ireland" did strike a chord. My granda worked in a furniture and home furnishings shop before he went on the run, and in his later years, he ended up working as a storeman in a textile factory.

Jd66 wrote:then lets hear those arguments as explanations of thoe questions he raised of the period, rather than tying to shut down any criticism of the IRA.


I'm working on it. I'm an equal-opportunities iconoclast! :D
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby michaelcarragher on Tue Dec 13, 2011 6:29 am

JD66 wrote:

I think it's a complicated picture and we need debate, not polemics, to understand it.

By the by, this is an article on the Irish Story site about the latest arguments in the Dunmanway controversey, that addresses some of these issues.

http://www.theirishstory.com/2011/11/01 ... ntroversy/


Good piece, John, and your conclusion is in line with my own:

In short, yes there was sectarianism, but no, it was not the central feature of the conflict. The Dunmanway killings constitute an atrocity, the killing of defenceless civilians, but not an example of ethnic cleansing.
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby thepremier on Fri Dec 16, 2011 12:05 am

Jd66 wrote:Premier, as above, but I'd advise you to read Hart's stuff, just don't leave your critical faculties at the door.


Jd66, I have, and find it fundamentally unreliable, which is why I leave it alone. In terms of sociology, I find its methodology to be flawed. That's just my perspective, though, and based on my working methods.

Just read that John Regan (no nationalist apologist) accused Hart of "academic fraud", in TCD, no less. Apparently Eunan O'Halpin was not pleased.
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Re: Historical Revisionism and the Irish War of Independence.

Postby DrNightdub on Fri Dec 16, 2011 8:41 pm

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