The Transformation of Ireland

In This Review

The Transformation of Ireland

By Diarmaid Ferriter
Overloook Press, 2005
884 pp. $37.50
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At a time when the economic development of Ireland is widely seen as one of the great achievements of the European Union, this enormous history of Ireland since 1900 by a young Irish historian not only succeeds in showing vividly the struggles and divisions that have marked the country's turbulent story; it also sheds light on important areas neglected by earlier historians -- the flaws of an educational system dominated by the church, the nature of the family, the many "double standards in relation to class," and the scope and causes of alcoholism and acute poverty, among others. Ferriter's use of archives made available only recently and his interest in social issues (which is not to say that he neglects the cultural dimension) give this history considerable depth and allow Ferriter to present, in a matter-of-fact way, the dark realities that the economic takeoff and the integration into Europe (to which he devotes only a few pages) have not eliminated. Thus, the book is a sharp reminder of the gap between economic modernization and cultural and social practices and institutions that resist and often distort change. It is also a call to Irish scholars and citizens to conduct more self-examination and to face unpleasant truths, past and present.