Remembering the Troubles
Contesting the Recent Past in Northern Ireland
The historian A. T. Q. Stewart once remarked that in Ireland all history is applied history—that is, the study of the past prosecutes political conflict by other means. Indeed, nearly twenty years after the 1998 Belfast Agreement, "dealing with the past" remains near the top of the political agenda in Northern Ireland. The essays in this volume, by leading experts in the fields of Irish and British history, politics, and international studies, explore the ways in which competing "social" or "collective memories" of the Northern Ireland "Troubles" continue to shape the post-conflict political landscape.
The contributors to this volume embrace a diversity of perspectives: the Provisional Republican version of events, as well as that of its Official Republican rival; Loyalist understandings of the recent past as well as the British Army's authorized for-the-record account; the importance of commemoration and memorialization to Irish Republican culture; and the individual memory of one of the noncombatants swept up in the conflict. Tightly specific, sharply focused, and rich in local detail, these essays make a significant contribution to the burgeoning literature of history and memory. The book will interest students and scholars of Irish studies, contemporary British history, memory studies, conflict resolution, and political science.
Contributors: Jim Smyth, Ian McBride, Ruan O’Donnell, Aaron Edwards, James W. McAuley, Margaret O’Callaghan, John Mulqueen, and Cathal Goan.
"The ‘war’ in Northern Ireland may be over, but its legacy is hotly contested and the dead from the conflict remain unquiet. The essays in this book engage with complex issues of memory, commemoration, and remembrance, and they do so in a clear-sighted, fair-minded, evenhanded, and, on occasion, poignant way. Altogether, the volume is a highly significant addition to the slim corpus of essential works on the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles.'" —Thomas Bartlett, professor emeritus, University of Aberdeen
"The essays in Remembering the Troubles are admirably well-balanced, taking on board the politics of memory among republicans, loyalists, and the British army, and also giving consideration to the implications of commemoration policies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland." —Guy Beiner, author of Remembering the Year of the French
"Vividly recalling memory’s selectiveness and its saturation with cognitive and emotional biases, Jim Smyth’s sparkling collection of essays initiates the historian’s reckoning with what some called the Long War, others Operation Banner, and far too many spoke of as ‘The Troubles’—that Irish euphemism for awful violence." —Brendan O’Leary, Lauder Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
"This book is a welcome reminder that it is possible for historians writing about Ireland's long war to be fair-minded, even-handed and empathetic. In that alone it stands in marked contrast to much contemporary journalism. . . . this book is recommended to all scholars of the modern Irish conflict." —History Ireland
"For the reviewer in search of a quotation with which to sum up the work under consideration, Remembering the Troubles offers an embarrassment of riches. . . . Such is the complexity of the challenge faced by Smyth and his fellow contributors—to navigate the contested waters of Northern Ireland’s recent past with charts drawn from collective memories that are inherently subjective and unreliable. . . . Remembering the Troubles serves as a valuable contribution to the act of “'remembering the Troubles openly'." —The Irish Times
"Memory, unlike history, works best when looking backwards. Let us therefore begin at the end. The bottom line for an assessment of the collected essays on Remembering the Troubles, edited by Jim Smyth, is conveniently summed up by Thomas Bartlett in a blurb on the book’s cover: 'the volume is a highly significant addition to the slim corpus of essential works on the Northern Ireland Troubles.'" —Dublin Review of Books
“The use of memory in reconstructing the historical past has, in recent years, come to preoccupy historians as they seek to explain what the relationship is of memory and commemoration to history. . . . This is an excellent collection which deserves to be read.” —English Historical Review
“This astute and candid collection is a welcome addition to the historiography of the conflict in Northern Ireland and to the field of memory studies. It adopts a referencing, no holds barred approach to retelling difficult stories and confronting the present state of political stasis in addressing the past. “ —Canadian Journal of Irish Studies