Irish History for Dummies by Mike Cronin, PhD

Unlike with the larger focus on British history, I can’t say I’ve ever had a good grasp on the Irish side of the story.  Given the sheer amount of Irish music (and various types of Celtic music) I listen to, I decided this was long overdue when I ran across this quote:

“Those in power write the history, while those who suffer write the songs.” — Frank Harte

It made me think.  I mean, really think.  One of the things that I’ve been putting together for myself over the past few years is an understanding of the stories behind the great music of the world.  Irish culture has been prolific on this front, to say the least, and I’d been looking at that culture through the lens of its neighbors, and through the lens of my own American culture.  It’s an interesting dichotomy.  The Irish more than helped to build America, and America helped to save Irish music in the process.  I say that, but the Irish are the most prolific people across the entire globe due to the circumstances that have driven them far beyond the confines of their little island.  To tell that story properly, you have to go back many centuries, and that’s where this book comes in very handy.

After my experience with British History for Dummies, I wasn’t entirely certain what to expect going in.  I can compare and contrast the two works now, however.  Where the British volume was unnecessarily complex and kept jumping around, making it somewhat difficult to follow if you weren’t well-versed in the subject, Irish History for Dummies did exactly what I hoped it would.  It laid the groundwork for further study in this topic and gave enough in the process — clearly and concisely — that a person could walk away from it with some understanding of what makes this culture tick.  For myself, I have a better understanding of what makes them sing and perform as they do.  My own DNA is intertwined from across Britain and Ireland, and now that I better understand some of this history from this particular perspective, it’s like I can feel the history in the music through my blood… which really only makes the music better.  When you can personalize and internalize anything, you know you’ve hit the right marks.

Being a For Dummies book, the limitations are inherent in the format, but you’d be hard pressed to ask for better out of this one.  What’s better, it’s written in a comfortable, engaging manner, the complete opposite of its British History counterpart.  That book said, “This is what happened and how it turned out.”  This book says, “This is who we are and why.”  One thing about it, I’ll never look at St. Patrick’s Day the same way again.  Want to know more?  The rest is up to you.  This book offers up an excellent starting point.

4 stars

2 thoughts on “Irish History for Dummies by Mike Cronin, PhD

  1. Though I’m not Irish myself (despite everyone assuming so because of my red hair), I hold much interest for the culture and music and was lucky enough to analyze an Irish film in one of my college courses. Seems like this is a nice jump off point for beginning a more comprehensive understanding of the country and its people. Great review and recommendation!

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