Derry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and has had a Catholic majority since 1850. It was witness to some of the most important events of the civil rights movement and the Troubles. Derry City examines Catholic Derry from the turn of the twentieth century to the end of the 1960s and the start of the Troubles. Plotting the relationships between community memory and historic change, Margo Shea provides a rich and nuanced account of the cultural, political, and social history of Derry using archival research, oral histories, landscape analysis, and public discourse. Looking through the lens of the memories Catholics cultivated and nurtured as well as those they contested, she illuminates Derry’s Catholics’ understandings of themselves and their Irish cultural and political identities through the decades that saw Home Rule, Partition, and four significant political redistricting schemes designed to maintain unionist political majorities in the largely Catholic and nationalist city. Shea weaves local history sources, community folklore, and political discourse together to demonstrate how people maintain their agency in the midst of political and cultural conflict. As a result, the book invites a reconsideration of the genesis of the Troubles and reframes discussions of the “problem” of Irish memory. It will be of interest to anyone interested in Derry and to students and scholars of memory, modern and contemporary British and Irish history, public history, the history of colonization, and popular cultural history.
“This is indeed an original study that makes a significant contribution not only to the recent political and cultural history of the city of Derry, but it is also an interesting contribution to the literature on the politics of memory in Ireland as pioneered by writers such as Guy Beiner and Mary Daly.” —Ciaran Brady, author of Shane O'Neill
“Though this particular area of inquiry is covered widely by historians, none in my survey of the literature have the depth, or breadth, of Derry City.” —Andrea Simpson, author of The Tie That Binds
“Mapping an urban memoryscape to reveal a rich tapestry of traditions, Derry City is a sparkling demonstration of the value of public history.” —Guy Beiner, author of Forgetful Remembrance
“Derry City reveals in heartbreaking and stunning detail how memory, in all of its multiple forms, serves as screen, catalyst, and infrastructure for our understanding of the Troubles—and how they continue to shape the present moment. A must-read for all still consumed by this not-so-distant past. —James E. Young, author of The Stages of Memory
"Shea explores how Derry Catholics, despite being subordinated and repressed, first by the British and then by the Northern Ireland government after 1922, retained and actively expressed a nationalist cultural identity based on historical memories and family and community traditions. . . . This well-researched book is an important contribution to the study of Derry and to historical memory more broadly." —Choice
"[This] account compels me not just because of my own history as a child of the Troubles, but also because of how it reinforces Shea’s uniqueness as an historian who gives ordinary voices their due." —The Typescript