Irish Studies and Myth History

Anne Laurence examines the history of Irish studies.

We all know in theory that history is a political subject, but historians of England rarely have to confront that reality. The situation is very different in the case of Irish history. In part this is because of the character of the consumers of Irish history, but the uses to which Irish history is put are also important. Roy Foster pointed out in a paper to the Royal Historical Society in 1983 that in Ireland history has a peculiarly personal quality. It is invoked as an explanation for human action, most obviously in our own time in the rhetoric of the discussion of Northern Ireland, but over the last century in the writings of many Irish patriots. History, in the sense of the construction of historians, is seen as something which is taking place, with which the present is reacting. In England history is over and done with.

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