International influences on the Irish Free State

Posted on: 16 November 2017

The Irish Free State was much more open to international influence than scholarship has traditionally allowed, according to historian Dr Anne Dolan, who re-evaluated Ireland in the inter-war years in the light of wider European trends at a public seminar this week.

Dr Dolan, Associate Professor in Modern Irish History, delivered the lecture entitled “Towards a New Social History of Ireland, 1922-1939?” as part of the Contemporary Irish History Research Seminar Series in Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute at 4pm.

“In an interview in February 1931, in a rhetorical flourish of sorts, W.T. Cosgrave, then President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, asked himself the question ‘what has the average man in the street got out of his independence and self-government?’  He went on to answer it with a list of his government’s achievements, with a summation of his sense of what the Free State meant after almost ten years.  The man in the street may well have given a very different set of answers, never mind the average woman, but for many years the historiography of the inter-war period has reflected a clear disappointment with the nature and performance of the Irish Free State.”

“In social, economic and cultural terms the criticisms have been considerable, and the censures have put down quite deep roots.  Discussing some of the factors which have shaped this negative interpretation, this paper will suggest some possible alternative approaches and interpretations to what have become the traditional views of the 1920s and 1930s.  Without attempting to tip the debate back to a naively positive interpretation of the inter-war years, it will propose where we might take the study of the period from here.”

“Drawing on comparative and transnational approaches, the paper re-evaluates independent Ireland in the light of wider European trends, and finds a place much more open to international influence than the scholarship has traditionally allowed.  Examining aspects of the political, economic, social and cultural history of the period, the paper argues for the recognition of a much more diverse Irish experience in the inter-war years.”

The lecture forms part of the Contemporary Irish History Research Seminar Series, which is organised by The Centre for Contemporary Irish History. Other upcoming lecture include:

  • November 22, 2017 ‘The fearful Object’: The heritage of culpability and blame, by Professor Elizabeth Crooke, Ulster University
  • November 29, 2017 Civil or Proxy War: How should we understand military operations in Ireland 1922-23? by Dr Barry Sheehan, Gleneagle Group
  • December 6, 2017 The government wants a terrible lot of light.’ Slum clearance in Irish towns, 1932- 1945, Dr Peter Connell, Trinity College Dublin
  • December 13, 2017 Provincial Recruitment in the First World War: The Glynns of Kilrush, County Clare, by Dr Paul O’Brien, Mary Immaculate College, Limerick

Image: Executive Council of the Irish Free State 1928

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