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«Poor Green Erin»

German Travel Writers’ Narratives on Ireland from Before the 1798 Rising to After the Great Famine- Texts Edited, Translated and Annotated by Eoin Bourke

Eoin Bourke

The area of 19 th -century German travel writing on Ireland has received widespread scholarly attention over the years in treatises in both English and German, but these efforts were directed largely at fellow-scholars and formed part of an academic discourse on travel, interculturality and alterity. This book, on the other hand, is conceived of more as a reader for the general public than as an academic treatise, presents a surprisingly extensive body of comments drawn from German and Austrian sources from between 1783 and 1865 and lets them «talk for themselves». Some of these remarkably empathetic and well-founded eye-witness accounts were translated into English already in the 19 th century by people like Sarah Austin and Sir Lascelles Wraxhall, but the editor has re-translated them to remove varying degrees of antiquatedness of formulation and has added other accounts that were hitherto largely unknown to the non-German-speaking reading public.
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18 Johann Georg Kohl (1842)

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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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