With Christmas just around the corner, we look at some of the best Irish and Dublin history books published this year. Apologises about the short reviews but I wanted to ensure this list was out before Christmas. I plan to expand on these descriptions over the holiday period when I’m off work and have more time on my hands.
Captain Jack White: Imperialism, Anarchism, and the Irish Citizen Army – Leo Keohane (Irish Academic Press, 2014)
288 pages. €20 RRP.
The first proper biography of a fascinating Irish historical figure – Boer war hero, protestant Home Ruler, socialist convert, first Commandant of the Irish Citizen Army, Republican Congress activist in the early 1930s (during which he was physically attacked by both the IRA and the fascist Blueshirts) and finally, an anti-Fascist medic in Republican Spain during the Civil War.
Described accurately as “one of the few notable figures in Ireland to declare himself an anarchist”, author Leo Keohane introduces the reader to the theory of Anarchism in a honest and impartial manner. A rare feat.
Modern Dublin, Urban Change and the Irish Past, 1957-1973 – Erika Hanna (Oxford University Press, 2013)
240 pages. €75 RRP.
The price (due to its limited print run and academic audience) will unfortunately be a barrier to most but this is a fantastic book which will be of interest to anyone with an interest in modern Dublin history.
Most importantly the book analysises the political and social differences and similarities between the work of the middle-class Irish Georgian Society, dedicated to saving Dublin’s Anglo-Irish architecture from destruction, and the activist-led Dublin Housing Action Committee (DHAC) whose short but explosive existence saw an inspirational campaign of squatting and an attempt to build links with the civil rights struggle in the North.
Secret Dublin : An Unusual Guide – Pól Ó Conghaile (Jonglez Publishing, 2013)
256 pages. €18 RRP.
A perfect guide for both local and visitor. Well-produced and accessible. Personal highlights Blessington Street Basin, the Hungry Tree in Kings Inn, the chapter house in St. Mary’s Abbey, bullet holes in the Daniel O’Connell monument, the City Hall murals, St. Kevin’s Park, Freemason’s Hall, animal carvings on the old Kildare Street Club, Challoner’s Corner cemetery in Trinity College, the Coombe Monument and the Jewish Cemetery.
The Legendary ‘Lugs Branigan’ – Ireland’s Most Famed Garda: How One Man became Dublin’s Tough Justice Legend – Kevin C. Kearns (Gill & Macmillan, 2014)
384 pages. €25 RRP.
One of the most interesting history books that I’ve read for sometime. I finished it in a couple of sittings. A policeman on the beat in South Inner City from 1931 to 1973, boxing champion Lugs went head to head against the Animal Gangs (1930s/40s), Teddy Boys (1950s), skinheads and football hooligans (1960s/1970s) and any innocents unlucky enough to get in his way. A fantastic social history of the capital.
Review from the Irish Independent.
The Pillar: The Life and Afterlife of the Nelson Pillar – Donal Fallon (New Island, 2014)
154 pages. €15 RRP.
The most comprehensive account published on Dublin’s most iconic piece of street architecture. A real gem of a book. Written by Donal of this parish.
Review from the Dublin Review of Books.
D’you Remember Yer Man?: A Portrait of Dublin’s Famous Characters – Bobby Aherne (New Island, 2014)
160 pages. €8 RRP.
A nice stocking-filler featuring all of Dublin’s most famous street characters (Bang Bang, Billy in the Bowl, Hairy Lemon, Zozimus etc.) as well as some living legends (Aidan Kavanagh, Pat Ingoldsby etc.) and some memorable 20th century personalities (The Diceman, Hector Gray, Joe Edelstein, Matt the Japp and Ubi Dwyer). A book to dip in and out of.
Dublin: The Making of a Capital City – Dr. David Dickson (Profile Books, 2014)
720 pages. €38 RRP.
A heavy-weight scholarly volume on the history of Dublin city. A present for the scholar or serious enthusiast. Still haven’t got around to starting it yet.
Reviews from the Telegraph and the Dublin Review of Books.
Ghost Signs of Dublin – Antonia Hart (History Press, 2014)
144 pages. €18 RRP.
A wonderfully produced photo-book focusing on Dublin’s old advertising signage. Editor Antonia Hart has chosen an eclectic mix of well-known businesses (Bewley’s coffee, Elvery’s sports shop, Jacob’s biscuits), pubs (The Bailey, Bowe’s, Hartigan’s, The Stags Head, The Parnell Mooney) and smaller, nearly-forgotten firms. It’s encouraging to read that the signs for Finn’s Hotel and Lennox Chemicals on South Leinster Street beside Trinity College are being preserved by the building’s owners.
From Clery’s Clock to Wanderly Wagon: Irish History You Weren’t Taught at School – Damien Corless (Collins Press, 2014)
224 pages. €13 RRP.
The perfect present trivia and quiz loving member of your your family. A collection of 101 objects – not least the Jack Charlton Mug, the Pioneer Pin, the MGM lion and Mister Tayto – offering a surreal insight into Ireland’s history.
Hidden City: Adventures and Explorations in Dublin – Karl Whitney (Penguin, 2014)
272 pages. €20 RRP.
A delightful journey around Dublin, taking in its sewers, underground rivers, ghost estates, odd bus routes and sprawling suburb estates. The chapter on the suburb of Tyrrelstown, 13 km northwest of the city of Dublin, and the 2010 murder of Nigerian teenager Toyosi Shittabey was particularly poignant.
Irish Citizen Army – Ann Matthews (Mercier Press, 2014)
256 pages. €15 RRP.
A comprehensive but relatively brief insight into the history of the Irish Citizen Army. Ann Matthews analyses its origins in the 1913 lockout, its role in the run up to the Rising, the main event, re-organisation in the 1917-18 period, the part the army played in the Civil War, its demise in the 1930s and attempts by the Old ICA Comrades’ Association to keep the organisation’s memory alive until the mid 1940s.
Stones of Dublin: A History of Dublin in Ten Buildings – Lisa Marie Griffith (Collins Press, 2014)
192 pages. €18 RRP.
A well-written and important contribution to the history of the city. Historian and walking tour guide Lisa Maria Griffith looks at the ten of Dublin’s most historic buildings – Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Castle, Trinity College Dublin, the Old Parliament House (Bank of Ireland), City Hall, Kilmainham Gaol, St James’ Gate Brewery, the GPO, the Abbey and Croke Park.
Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890-1923 – R. F. Foster (Penguin, 2014)
496 pages. €25 RRP.
I’ve only just started this book but so far it’s been brilliant. A “multilayered account of that turbulent time”, Foster explores the worlds of Irish republican students, actors, writers and civil servants “often from comfortable backgrounds and often spending part of their lives working in Britain”.