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Revolution and Evolution


Edited By John Strachan and Alison O'Malley-Younger

The essays in this collection all revolve around the notion of change in Ireland, whether by revolution or by evolution. Developments in the shared histories of Ireland and Great Britain are an important theme throughout the book. The volume begins by examining two remarkable Irishmen on the make in Georgian London: the boxing historian Pierce Egan and the extraordinary Charles Macklin, eighteenth-century actor, playwright and manslaughterer. The focus then moves to aspects of Hibernian influence and the presence of the Irish Diaspora in Great Britain from the medieval period up to the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century celebrations of St Patrick’s Day in Manchester. The book also considers the very different attitudes to the British Empire evident in the career of the 1916 rebel Sir Roger Casement and the Victorian philologist and colonial servant Whitley Stokes. Further essays look at writings by Scottish Marxists on the state of Ireland in the 1920s and the pronouncements on the Troubles by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
The book also examines change in the culture of the island of Ireland, from the development of the Irish historical novel in the nineteenth century, to ecology in contemporary Irish women’s poetry, to the present state of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. Contemporary Irish authors examined include Roddy Doyle, Joseph O’Connor and Martin McDonagh.


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Introduction Alison O’Malley-Younger and John Strachan In Sato’s house, Curved like the new moon, moon luminous, It lay five hundred years. Yet if no change appears No moon; only an aching heart Conceives a changeless work of art. … Juno’s peacock screamed. — W. B. Yeats, ‘My Table’ (1923) According to David Fitzpatrick, ‘if revolutions are what happen to wheels, then Ireland underwent a revolution between 1916 and 1922 [in which] social institutions were turned upside down, only to revert to full circle upon the establishment of the Irish Free State’ (Fitzpatrick, 1977: 232). For Fitzpatrick the revolutionary period, which encompassed the Easter Rising, the Civil War and the establishment of the Free State in 1921, was cyclical, with the forces of conservatism and stasis counteracting those of revolu- tion and rebellion. To his mind, Ireland had thus not ‘changed, changed utterly’ (Yeats, 2002: 56) as W. B. Yeats had once poetically argued, but had turned round upon itself. The brave new Celtic world envisaged by Yeats and his contemporaries had, in this account, been strangled almost at birth by the narrowly defined moral and cultural strictures of the Free State. The revolutionary change intuited by Yeats in his ‘Meditations in Time of Civil War’ (1923) had come about and yet had been quelled by the emblematic Sato’s sword, symbol of continuity, fixity and changelessness. The wheel had come full circle. Irish culture had resisted the opportunity to evolve, choosing instead what Robert Welch describes as ‘a perfect look 2 Alison O’Malley-Younger...

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