German Travel Writers’ Narratives on Ireland from Before the 1798 Rising to After the Great Famine- Texts Edited, Translated and Annotated by Eoin Bourke
18 Johann Georg Kohl (1842)
Johann Georg Kohl (1808-1878) was the city librarian of Bremen. The success of his first publications about the Baltic regions, Russia and Poland encouraged him to become a professional geographer and ethnograph. His account of Ire- land is consequently one of the most informed and exhaustive of all the travel- ogues presented here, particularly as his previous experience of many other European countries including Siberia and Transylvania gave him a means of contrast. Michael Hurst called him an observer “of unfailing accuracy” (Hurst 2001, vii), and Constantia Maxwell said of him, “This German was a very good observer, and his judgment is excellent” [Maxwell 1954, 278] and was “singu- larly free from prejudice” [ibid., 295]. His book on Ireland, she says, is written “with German thoroughness [and] is a mine of information for the historian” [ibid., 278]. Marcus Rau praises Kohl for his impartiality and unconventionality in his open-minded and hearty engagement with everyone no matter of what sex, age, level of education or class [Rau 1999, 183]. Compared to some other commentators like Knut Jongbohm Clement this is largely true, although Kohl’s socialisation as a solid middle-class Lutheran with a Hanseatic mercantile background – his father was a wine merchant – inclines him to identify far more readily with Northern Irish Presbyterians than with either Catholic peasantry or Anglican gentry. In Belfast, to whose trade, manufacturing and institutions he devotes 47 pages of facts and figures, he clearly feels at home. His attitude to Daniel O’Connell is ambivalent, to say the...
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