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    Student name: Denis Savage Student number: 112309081 Module: Historical debate Module code: H13001 Lecturer: Dr Donal Ó Drisceoil Essay title: State of the art or ideological project?’  Since the turn of the twentieth century, the debate on the means in which Irish Historiography is to be written has been an area which has been reawakened but is shrouded in controversy by the conception of revisionism. The srcins of revisionism in Ireland can be traced back to T.W Moody and Robert Dudley Edwards whom are accredited for being the founding fathers of revisionism in Ireland, founding Irish Historical Studies  in 1938. This acted as technical journal for “historians dedicated to archivally based research and self-consciously opposed to nationalist myth in the name of scientific objectivity” 1 . Moody and Edwards set about revolutionising the “archaic”  way in which history had been told in Ireland, which Moody called “ the mental war of liberation from the servitude of myth of Irish nationalist histor y, by applying scientific methods to the evidence” 2 .In summary, revisionism set about implementing a professional approach to the writing of history in which Irish past would be revised in lieu of new evidence. However, in practice this was far from the case, instead it became a means of attacking Irish nationalism. To quote Desmond Fennell, “Revisionism, both in its ultimate thrust, and as a matter of objective fact, is the historiography of the Irish counter- revolution” 3 .In the forthcoming paragraphs, this essay will outline the reasons behind why Irish historical revisionism was ultimately an ideological project. The forthcoming paragraphs will discuss two phases of revisionism along with its political intentions “Revisionism sets about quite explicitly t o challenge nationalist and republican history which it finds methodologically suspect” 4  however this cause is rife with contractions, due to the fact that what it is revising is being claimed as “bad”, whilst what is being reconstructed is objectively and  scientifically true. In doing so, as stated by countless anti-revisionists such as Bradshaw and Whelan, revisionism is becoming negatively biased contrary to the opinion free nature that it markets itself as , with Whelan going as far as saying that revisionism “ is seeking to remove Irish 1   Kevin, Whelan, The Revisionist Debate in Ireland, Duke University Press, Spring 2004,p.184   2  Nancy, Curtain, “Varieties of Irishness”: Historical Revisionism, Irish Style, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p.197   3  Desmond, Fennell, “Against Revisionism” rep in Ciaran Brady, Interpreting Irish History, (IAP 1994), P.186   4  Nancy, Curtain, “Varieties of Irishness”: Historical Revisionism, Irish Style, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p.198    nationalist consciousness from historical record”. 5  An even more damming charge levelled at revisionism is in its failings to deal sufficiently with the trauma and pain of Irish history. This sense that Irish trauma is merely overlooked, is further compounded by the way in which the famine is portrayed Robert Dudley Edwards and T.D Williams “The Great Irish Famine”  (which is often touted as the model revisionist text)to deal with the pain felt by the Irish. The famine is merely treated as an episode in Irish history in which the cause is never specified, with the British being cast only as benign administrators. Whilst revisionism reigned, famine was not a fashionable topic and it set about marginalising the idea that “the fam ine was the major event in Irish history and to assign its elevation there as an effect of the insidious nationalist bias in Irish historiography” 6  As an ideal, revisionism promises to revolutionise Irish History, however in reality it is little more than a means of enforcing the political agenda of that current time. This paragraph will look at the first phase of revisionism and how it was used as a political tool. According to Ronan Fanning, “those who are in power control to a very large extent the presentation of the past and seek to make sure that it is presented in such a way to legitimize their own authority” 7 . A republican nationalist history served well for Irish political figures in a pre-independence world, but with the British now removed from the equation and a great deal of angst within the fledgling state, many felt a new style of history was required. As “A history that is defined as nationalist struggle excludes those who did not partake in or benefit from that struggle.” 8  The new state was left with the woes of over 800 years of British occupation coupled with a brutal civil war. For many of the political and social elite, it was felt that unless Ireland rid itself of its obsession in the past and its lamenting of nationalist icons, it would never be able to advance. The anti-nationalist agenda of revisionism provided the perfect platform to revolutionise the Irish states perspective, both on itself and the future. F.S.L Lyons captures the mind- set of that time, “with the 5  Nancy, Curtain, “Varieties of Irishness”: Hi  storical Revisionism, Irish Style, Cambridge University Press, 1996, p.200   6  Kevin, Whelan, The Revisionist Debate in Ireland, Duke University Press, Spring 2004,p.204   7   M.A.G., Ó Tuathaigh  , Irish Historical Revisionism: State of the Art or Ideological Project rep in Ciaran Brady, Interpreting Irish History, (IAP 1994), P.313   8  Nancy, Curtain, “Varieties of Irishness”: Historical Revisionism, Irish Style, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp.212    dire past still overhanging the dire present. The theories of nationality, the theories of history, which have brought Ireland to its present pass, cry out for re- examination” 9  The previous scapegoat of Great Britain as the cause of all Irish woes, was replaced with nationalism. Revisionists such as Sean O’Faolain claimed that the Irish obsession with nationalism created “a mummified society, haplessly marooned between an unattainable golden age from which they were irrevocably severed and a future they were incapable of embracing” 10  Aided by a new political agenda, revisionism set about indoctrinating the Irish nation in a history free of nationalism. In this paragraph, the second phase of revisionism will be look at and it ’s motives. The 1960s in Southern Ireland represented a time of affluence and economic transformation from the squalor that had been experienced in the 1950s. This was in stark contrast to the events north of the border, in which the eruption of the troubles once again sparked “critical engagement with the Irish past ” 11   as means of preventing the conflict from spilling over the border. “ There was a view that nationalism should not and must not contribute to the situation in Northern Ireland.” 12  The anti-nationalist thrust of revisionism was once again chosen by the political elite of Southern Ireland to stem the nationalist influence. This second phase of revisionism openly attacked the national narrative, whi ch according to Bradshaw “saw the increasing dominance of more overtly iconoclastic approach to a new generation which in place of positive bias towards the nationalist view in earlier accounts simply substituted a negative bias as its value base” 13  Aided by a political agenda wary of nationalistic beliefs , the revisionists set about making anything remotely “nationalist” as a taboo, claiming that the traditional Irish historical narrative (pro-nationalist, anti-British) was the principal root of Irish problems, both sides of the border. For the revisionists, Irish nationalism exemplified by 9  Desmond, Fennell, “Against Revisionism” rep in Ciaran Brady, Interpreting Irish History, (IAP 1994), P.184   10   Kevin, Whelan, The Revisionist Debate in Ireland, Duke University Press, Spring 2004,pp. 1186   11  Brian, Girvan, Beyond Revisionism? Some Recent Contributions to the Study of Modern Ireland, Oxford University Press, 2009, p.96   12   Robert, Perry, Revising Irish History: The Northern Ireland conflict and the war of ideas, Journal of European Studies, Dec.2010, Vol.40, Issue 4, p.330 13   M.A.G., Ó Tuathaigh  , Irish Historical Revisionism: State of the Art or Ideological Project rep in Ciaran Brady, Interpreting Irish History, (IAP 1994), pp.313  
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