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The Roots of Ireland's Troubles (Hardback)

Military > Pre-WWI > English Civil War P&S History > British History P&S History > Social History World History > UK & Ireland > Ireland

By Robert Stedall
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 396
Illustrations: 25
ISBN: 9781526742186
Published: 27th February 2019



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If the objective of colonisation should be the establishment of economic benefit, in Ireland it was to enforce order. Settlers were required to usurp the traditional lands of its indigenous population. Their attempts to enforce Protestantism in all its forms onto the dogmatically Catholic locality were doomed to failure. With unrest continuing, Ireland became the battleground for the English Civil War fought out between Royalist and Parliamentarian to the detriment of its people.

The availability of cheap Irish labour soon led to calls to protect English agricultural prices. Fears that Irish goods would undercut English production costs led to calls to prevent the development of an Irish industrial revolution, despite the desperate need to employ the surplus rural population. This inevitably led to famine. No one believed the problem which was unfolding despite all the efforts of Nationalist politicians. English land owners in Parliament were only concerned to protect landlord interests and to score points off their political opponents. If home rule could not be delivered by political means, it was inevitable that it would be delivered by force.

Inextricably linked with the history of Britain, Stedall guides the reader through Ireland’s turbulent but rich history. To understand the causes behind the twentieth-century conflict, which continues to resonate today, we must look to the long arc of history in order to truly understand the historical roots of a nation’s conflict.

This is a meticulously researched and well-written account documenting, in often painful detail, the self-serving and shamefully callous treatment of the Irish peoples by British governments, absentee landlords and churchmen from Tudor to Victorian times. I read Cecil Woodham-Smith’s book about the great potato famine in the 1840s, The Great Hunger, whilst I was at school, but Robert Stedall’s book is a masterpiece in understanding the roots (as in the title) of Ireland’s troubles.

I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to know more about the subject, but even taking into account the harsher principles of the times, it is a sorry tale indeed.

PS Customer, August 2020

It illustrates the complexity of the events that have both buffeted it from the outside and which have been generated from within. It places Ireland into a much wider context and takes it beyond the simplistic Catholic v Protestant dichotomy. It is making me want to learn even more about Irish history, both exploring more deeply what happened next and to go back and visit some of the interesting side roads that were sign posted through the book for areas that could benefit from further investigation. Surely if a book engenders further interest and research into its subject matter then it has achieved a noble aim.

Read the full review here

The British Empire Blog

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Pike and Shot Society

A marvellous account which taught me a great deal I didn't know and probably should have. This is a fascinating and necessary book. I had not realised that the 1798 rebellion was Presbyterian led-not Catholic.

Also , although it is dangerous to judge the past by modern standards,the behaviour of Parliament during the potato famine does seem particularly shocking; Perhaps there is a lesson for today's Parliamentarians. As an Anglo Irish I am grateful to learn so much about my former home. Strongly recommended.

Peter Thomas, Freelance Reviewer, August 2019

Venturing where wise men fear to tread Englishman Robert Stedall, educated at Marlborough College and McGill University, opines in the preface to his new book:

"It may seem unfathomable that tempers have continued to run so deep with friction remaining stubbornly close to the surface. Yet the protagonists have been slow to forgive and forget, jeopardizing continuing efforts to secure a lasting peace."

As I write the shooting death of journalist Lyra McKee by dissident republicans in the Creggan area of Londonderry is just the latest episode in that long history.

If like me your knowledge of Irish history had been previously informed by Flanders and Swann "blame it on Cromwell and William the Third" and the famine of the 1840s this lengthy book aims to give a perspective on the deeper historical roots.

Read the rest of the review here

John D. Reid, Anglo-Celtic Connections blog

The author has drawn on a large number of sources to explain in clear terms the essence of the ‘Irish Problem’. He has produced a very readable and direct account of the complex issues at the heart of Anglo-Irish relationships since the Reformation. Interestingly he clarifies the changing relationships between the religious power blocs in Ireland (which were actually very different to the apparently simple Catholic/Protestant stand-off we appear ready to accept today) and draws attention to the central problems of absentee landlords, political greed and a profound refusal of the British Establishment to recognise the problems and solutions.
I read the chapter on the Great Famine knowing that my Great, Great Grandfather in County Cork shared the dreadful conditions and privations of his generation (described with such empathy by the Author) before somehow finding the money to emigrate to England. I challenge anybody to read that chapter and be unmoved and indeed, to not be angry on behalf of a people so badly treated.
A totally absorbing book and hugely recommended as essential reading for anybody who wants to better understand Ireland past and present.
Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide.

Michael McCarthy

About Robert Stedall

Throughout his adult life Robert Stedall has been fascinated by genealogy. He is the curator of the popular www.maryqueenofscots.net and author of The Challenge to the Crown and The Survival of the Crown, a ground-breaking two-volume history of Mary Queen of Scots and her son, James VI of Scotland. He has written Mary Queen of Scots’ DownfallThe Roots of Ireland’s Troubles and Elizabeth I’s Secret Lover for Pen and Sword.

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