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Books > Irish History

The history of Ireland is a chronicle of epic struggle. If the Irish of centuries past weren't too busy battling blight and famine, they were doing their level best to stick it to the Man (generally of British descent). The Irish can be a tad feisty, and their history is filled with landmark battles, just-in-time emigration, and sharp jabs at British authority figures. It's a well-known historical fact that the Irish saved western civilization, and the featured books below can explain precisely how they managed it.

Irish History

How the Irish Saved Civilization (Hinges of History) by Thomas CahillHow the Irish Saved Civilization (Hinges of History)

by Thomas Cahill

Around the 6th Century, the Roman Empire was crumbling at the hands of the Visigoths. The victorious barbarians began the task of eradicating all traces of Western Civilization, sacking Europe's great libraries and destroying all the books. Ireland's St. Patrick rose to the challenge, establishing monasteries in isolated locations and instructing scribes to copy every volume he could get his hands on - from Greek philosophers and Roman poets to bawdy tales and Biblical studies - onto sheepskin. Without his intervention, we would never have known of the Bible, the books that formed the cornerstones of democracy, justice, science, and philosophy, or the works of Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Virgil, and the Greek dramatists. Thomas Cahill's tale of How the Irish Saved Civilization is a far-ranging historical romp that will prove fascinating to every reader.

+ Review

Rating: 5 out of 5 Shamrocks for How the Irish Saved Civilization (Hinges of History) Full of Wit and Song
As the descendent of an Irish lad born and immediately orphaned in the workhouse of Macroom, I may be hopelessly biased in my adulation of this book. "How the Irish Saved Civilization," is brilliant historical synthesis, wholly accessible to any armchair student of history. More than a read, it is a literary romp. Mr. Cahill has written an examination of Irish history and culture that everyone with Irish leanings should read.

My grandfather, the same lad born to such unfortunate circumstance, though penniless was never poor and always full of wit and song. He also bore uncanny resemblence to the mythic characters portrayed in this book.

My grandfather's truest gift was passed to me when he took aside his grandchildren at an impressionable age and revealed the family's heritage as "Descendants of the First Kings of Ireland." (For those not born Irish, this is the exact heritage of everyone Irish) This "secret" lore conveyed an abiding sense of worth that made the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune both endurable and humorous. Such is Irish heritage and such is the resonant message of this book.

For anyone seeking insightful, colorful historical summation this book is an infallible selection. Cautionary warnings about its summary nature are lost on lovers of history, myth and all things Irish.

My admiration for Thomas Cahill knows no bounds. The positivity he brings to the "Hinges of History" series clearly derives from a masterful grasp of subject. "How the Irish . . ." is the best in of his series, containing all the dazzle of a love born labor. Books like this remind us what the sung (and unsung) intersections of civilization have brought and why it is important to recall them. The "Hinges of History" is a great tool in the box of remembrance.

The Course of Irish History, 4th Edition by T. W. MoodyThe Course of Irish History, 4th Edition

by T. W. Moody

Much Irish history is written as a matter of heroes and leaders, of great personalities and sweeping events. T. W. Moody and F. X. Martin's collection of essays by leading historians offers all those things, but it takes the land itself as its starting point. Ireland, they write, has always been poor because of its ungiving soil; always isolated because of its ring of imposing mountains and steep hills--but always open to invasion from the east across the calm, narrow Irish Sea, because of which, they write, "our present-day laws and institutions have their origins in England." While taking a long view of events, they manage to compress thousands of years of history into this fact-filled, highly readable book.

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Rating: 5 out of 5 Shamrocks for The Course of Irish History, 4th Edition by T. W. Moody A fine general overview of Irish history
This book provides excellent overall coverage of Irish history from ancient times to the present. It provides a starting point for all further interest in specific Irish topics. As a future Irish historian, it is good to see a well-written general text on Irish history as most books on Irish subjects pertain to one period and/or issue. Definitely a highly recommended book for classroom purposes.

In Search of Ancient Ireland: From Neolithic Times to the Coming of the English by Carmel McCaffreyIn Search of Ancient Ireland: From Neolithic Times to the Coming of the English

by Carmel McCaffrey

This engaging book traces the history, archaeology, and legends of ancient Ireland from Neolithic times to the coming of England. Companion to the PBS documentary series. Marvelous. Terry Golway New York Observer

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Rating: 5 out of 5 Shamrocks for In Search of Ancient Ireland: From Neolithic Times to the Coming of the English by Carmel McCaffrey Monasteries, ring forts, mountains, sacred caves, & more
Collaboratively researched and written by Irish history expert Carmel McCaffrey and television writer, producer, and director Leo Eaton, In Search Of Ancient Ireland: The Origins Of The Irish From Neolithic Times To The Coming Of The English offers a truly fascinating and informative look at the origins of the Irish people and culture from the "New Stone Age" down of pre-history to the Norman invasion of 1167 AD, which brought the country under control of the English crown for the first time. Monasteries, ring forts, mountains, sacred caves, and as much as can be excavated or deduced of ancient history is superbly featured with a wealth of fine detail in this fascinating and highly readable resource. The companion book to a PBS television series of the same name, In Search Of Ancient Ireland is enthusiastically recommended for personal, academic, and community library Irish History Studies collections and reading lists.

More books about the history of Ireland