Cover image for Ireland's holy wars : the struggle for a nation's soul, 1500-2000
Ireland's holy wars : the struggle for a nation's soul, 1500-2000
Tanner, Marcus.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven ; London : Yale University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
x, 498 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps, portraits ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
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DA938 .T35 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The roots of the Irish conflict are profoundly religious. This study explores the consequences, over five centuries, of England's attempts to make Ireland into a Protestant state. It traces the creation of a modern Irish national identity through the popular resistance to imposed Protestantism.

Author Notes

Marcus Tanner was Balkan correspondent of the London "Independent" from 1988 to 1994, and subsequently the paper's assistant foreign editor.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Tanner illuminates the international debate over issues of sectarianism by examining one of the world's most troublesome hot spots, Northern Ireland. Since the North, as it is called there, cannot be understood without understanding all of Ireland, Tanner presents the synthesis of his impeccable and extensive research on how religion, ethnicity, and nationalism came together to define the island's history. He is particularly good at articulating the history of the Old English --the first Anglo settlers who, as Catholics, were faced with a choice of loyalties when Henry VIII changed religions and wives. He is eloquent on the Catholic Church's diminished role in today's republic, where a well-known priest, dying in a gay bathhouse, was given the last rites by another priest-customer, and the nation's most popular bishop was forced to acknowledge a "loan" from the diocese to pay for the rearing of his lovechild. Although the hundreds of documents Tanner cites make it slow reading, the book is still engaging and compelling, an example of the best in mingled reportage and scholarship. --Patricia Monaghan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Tanner chronicles the conflict between Protestants and Catholics from the 12th century Old English who first settled the Pale up to the "New Ireland" of the past decade in this intriguing unorthodox history. The heart of the volume is a consideration of the Unionist and Nationalist movements of the last century, as the author (Croatia: A Nation Forged in War) attempts to demonstrate that it was "Ireland's religious struggle that forged the political and national identities" of its people. He examines the Rising of 1916 from the unusual perspective of the alleged homosexuality of Padraig Pearse, the "President" of the Provisional Government. (Pearse, a schoolmaster who liked to write poetry about the limbs of young boys, was selected as president largely on his writing and oratorical skills.) Tanner investigates the Church's domination in the new nation, touching on the banning of books, which became a source of pride for Irish writers, and the anti-Semitism of the bishops. He also looks at the founder of Northern Ireland, Sir Edward Carson, whose resume includes the prosecution of Oscar Wilde, and the cooperative arrangement between the two states during WWII. The turning point for the modern country, Tanner argues, was the election of Mary Robinson as president of the republic in 1990 when "liberal, agnostic Ireland [beat] Catholic Ireland." Some readers may object to Tanner's insistence that political movements be viewed as religiously motivated instead of independent, secular events, or his tendency to blame the Church's media problems on liberals and gays getting even for years of persecution. Still, salient points in a coherent history make this a provocative read. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Economic disadvantage was considered the root of "The Troubles" until Ireland belatedly enjoyed economic growth in the late 20th century, and still the conflict raged. A foreign editor with the Independent, Tanner (Croatia: A Nation Forged in War) visited the Republic and Ulster, chummed around with Orangemen and Republicans alike, and looked at the island's history purely in religious terms. He pronounces not politics or economics but religious differences to be the root of centuries of violence. Nothing can be so simple, of course. Catholics, with higher birth rates, now outnumber Protestants in Ulster. With the Good Friday Agreement creeping toward enaction amid evidence that Britain wants out, the Orange Order, seeing the future of an elective government, is panicked and lately is guilty of violence comparable to that of the IRA's worst days. What terrifies the Protestants? Their perception of Catholic-inspired social conservatism in the Republic? Tanner dismisses this by pointing out the balky but persistent growth of a secular Irish state, as well as the peculiar phenomenon of minority immigration to Ireland. Tanner seems to be suggesting that the Orangemen should just calm down, as the Irish Republic will soon look more like England. Irregular, perhaps visionary, and certainly provocative, this book should start arguments if anyone is still listening. Robert Moore, Parexel Corp., Waltham, MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations and Mapsp. vii
Prefacep. ix
Introduction: If Stones Could Speakep. 1
Chapter 1 The Hart of the English Palep. 15
Chapter 2 It is Necessary that we Eradicate Themp. 35
Chapter 3 Myn Auctoritie is Litle Regardedp. 51
Chapter 4 The Kings Most Godlie Procedingsp. 74
Chapter 5 The Devil's Servicep. 90
Chapter 6 Seminaries beyond the Seasp. 105
Chapter 7 The Scum of Both Nationsp. 122
Chapter 8 Such Dangerous Personsp. 148
Chapter 9 Furious Demagogues of Rebellionp. 176
Chapter 10 The Crash of a Great Buildingp. 203
Chapter 11 The Agitating Priestp. 231
Chapter 12 Flags Flying and Drums Beatingp. 263
Chapter 13 Soutaned Bullies of the Lordp. 294
Chapter 14 A Tendency towards Defeatismp. 312
Chapter 15 Most Fruitful of Mothersp. 335
Chapter 16 Till Boyne Rivers Run Redp. 353
Chapter 17 I Never Asked for a Pedestalp. 380
Chapter 18 A Family Quarrelp. 411
Notesp. 432
Select Bibliographyp. 471
Indexp. 486