A Lesson in Irish History

4 Dec

Donal, our professor stood at the front of the room pointing to William of Orange, the “imported” king of England from the Netherlands following the Glorious Revolution, when Donal asked me what my question was. I began with saying that I had always thought that the Glorious Revolution was “glorious” because there was limited bloodshed after the bloody British Civil War just a few decades years earlier. Donal’s face suddenly darkened a little, because just a few minutes earlier he had said that it was very bloody for Ireland during the Glorious Revolution (hence my hand in the air to begin with), he started by saying how frustrating it is for the Irish that the English side of things is the one for the books and the only place that Ireland’s story gets told is in Ireland. I can’t say that I was blind sided by this comment, through high school I had been told that the winners are the ones who always get to write history, yet I had never thought of the English as the “winners” in terms of the Irish – the Irish are independent now, the only part of the island that identifies with it’s English rule wants to identify with that so why should they be considered the losers in terms of writing history? Since starting my Irish Life & Cultures class I have begun to understand a little more of the context for why the Irish side of the Glorious Revolution never made it across the Atlantic into the American education system, what makes the Irish independence so great and it’s culture so resilient is that this little island (little being a relative term) has been constantly battered by wave after wave of invading peoples and the cultures that they bring with them. So when Donal was so frustrated by our lack of knowledge in terms of the Irish plight it made sense, no one celebrates the difficulties if they do not lead to something great and in a way that is how I always saw Ireland – the stoic little teddy bear across the pond that after centuries of foreign rule finally earned their independence. I never stopped to think that they had once been the subjects, not the authors of their own country’s history. Thus far, all our classes have had an Irish spin on everything; the Celtic Tiger in economics, Irish social policy in Social Policy and now the Irish sides of the history I thought that I learned in high school, and it provides such a richer context for the world history I know. It makes me wonder how world history changes in other countries should I ever go to visit.

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