The Twentieth Century
Townshend, Charles
Date published: 
January 1999

Ireland in the twentieth century has had a very different history from that of most other western European countries. The two most profound shocks of the century, the world wars, met Ireland obliquely rather than head-on. Partition and civil war, on the other hand, were embittering experiences felt at first hand, the legacies of which snake their course through its subsequent history. How did the Irish 'revolution' come about and what was its nature? How did Ulster end up with the rich irony of being the only part of Ireland to embrace Home Rule? How well did the new Republic's promise of freedom assuage the painful reality, until the 1960s, of low economic growth and persistent emigration? Why was the Northern Ireland state unable or unwilling to conciliate its minority Catholic population? These are among the many issues addressed in Charles Townshend's masterful new account, one in which, to use the words of a reviewer of an earlier work of his, 'outstanding coolness, judiciousness and flair' combine with penetrating powers of analysis. It is the first account to cover the whole of Ireland, north and south, from the origins of Sinn Fein at the beginning of the century to the Stormont agreement at the end.