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The Easter Rising 1916-2016 in the IHR Library

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This post was compiled by the IHR Library’s Collection Librarian Michael Townsend and Graduate Trainee Siobhan Morris


Over the fine building of the G.P.O. floated a great green flag with the words “Irish Republic” on it in large white letters…and a big placard announced “The Headquarters of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic”‘ (Correspondence of Mrs Hamilton Norway, 25th April 1916 in The Sinn Fein Rebellion as they Saw It, p. 39)

Over the last couple of months, communities throughout Ireland and across the world have been marking the centenary of the Easter Rising. This post will highlight some of the works available in the IHR library not only recounting the events of those days in April 1916, but also those that consider the subsequent impact the Rising would have on Irish historiography and the historical culture of modern Ireland.

Eye Witness Testimony
Within the library’s Irish collection there are an array of diaries and memoirs from individual authors, for example: the account of Joe Good, a Londoner who enlisted as an Irish Volunteer and who would be stationed in the General Post Office throughout the course of the Rising, the Irish volunteer W. J. Brennan-Whitmore and the diaries of Seosamh de Brún and British officer, Major S. H. Lomas included in Mick O’Farrell’s The 1916 Diaries of an Irish Rebel and a British Soldier. Civilian accounts can be found in the letters of Mrs Hamilton Norway, who had recently moved to Dublin with her civil servant husband and in the accounts of women recorded within Women in Ireland, 1800-1918: a documentary history compiled by Maria Luddy. In addition, although neither a diary nor a memoir, researchers can gain some insight into one of the leaders of the Rising, James Connolly, by consulting a selection of his writings.
The library also has a selection of published collective accounts of the Rising. The accounts published in Keith Jeffery’s The GPO and the Easter Rising give voice to not only the Irish Volunteers who commandeered the building as their headquarters, but also to the bystanders who were working and using the post-office on that Easter Monday. In addition, a number of general source collections have been made possible in recent years when in 2003 the Irish Government’s Bureau of Military History released a multitude of witness statements taken in the 1940s and 50s by participants in the Rising. This forms the basis of the works Witnesses: inside the Easter Rising by Annie Ryan and Rebels: voices from the Easter Rising by Fearghal McGarry who both present selections from this newly available body of source material.

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The Trials of 1916

Although the Rising was swiftly quelled by the British Army, the subsequent court-martial, executions and imprisonments and the way they were conducted, would help ensure those executed became seen as martyrs of the Irish Republic and change public attitudes towards the Rising – not only in Ireland, but also Britain, the United States and beyond. General accounts of the Court Martial proceedings can be found in Seán Enright’s Easter Rising 1916: the trials, Brian Barton’s From Behind a Closed Door: secret court martial records of the 1916 Easter Rising, and Piaras Mac Lochlainn’s Last Words: letters and statements of the leaders executed after the Rising at Easter 1916. Not all who were arrested, however, were executed. The prison account of the nationalist journalist, Darrell Figgis, gives an insight into the life of those would be interned in Ireland and Britain in the aftermath of the Rising.

The Rising’s Influence after 1916
The rising has both been, and continues to be, a contested issue in the historiography of modern Ireland as well as a focus for commemoration and national identity. A number of works in the library’s Irish historiography collection consider both the scholarly debates about the Rising and its impact on Irish society as a whole throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Recently published, Who’s Afraid of the Easter Rising? 1916-2016 by James Heartfield and Kevin Rooney charts the impact of the rising both in Irish historiography and Irish collective memory over the past century, while Richard Grayson and Fearghal McGarry’s work, Remembering 1916: the Easter Rising, the Somme and the politics of memory in Ireland compares perceptions of the memory of the Rising with another event of 1916 that would have a profound impact on parts of Ireland, the Battle of the Somme. Mark McCarthy’s study, Ireland’s 1916 Rising: explorations of history-making, commemoration and heritage looks at how the Rising has been presented and re-invented over the last century with a special focus on the commemoration years of 1966, 2006 and 2016.

– For further details of the library’s holdings concerning the Easter Rising of 1916 please click on the interactive image gallery below.

– The IHR library has also compiled a guide to Irish History in the collections of the library, with additional information concerning the collection more generally.

-A special virtual issue of Historical Research drawing together a series of articles and podcasts on the theme of Anglo-Irish relations is also available for a limited period.

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