Ireland’s history, like that of most countries, is a mixture of history, legend, myth, ballad, and story. Although part of my family came from County Tyrone in the years before the Famine, any stories from the family might have brought over seem to have slipped away over the years. As a result, my real introduction to Ireland and its stories came from hearing the songs and then looking for the truth behind them, eventually from visiting Ireland, and always from reading.
As an historian, my preferred way of learning is to read the tales, stories, and histories. For example, one of the earliest books I read and which made a lasting impression was Thomas Flanagan’s novel “The Year of the French”. Flanagan’s book is a fairly accurate if fictionalized account of the arrival of the French army in Ireland in 1798 in belated support of the Rising of that year. While in Ireland, I traced some of the route taken by the French and Irish forces between “Killala’s Broad Bay” and Ballinamuck.
Another work, of history this time, that made a major impression was Robert Kee’s three volume“The Green Flag, A History of Irish Nationalism” later transformed into a 13-part television mini-series “Ireland – A Television History”. I enjoyed this book so much that I sent a copy to my mother for a Christmas present soon afterwards.
Like most novels and histories, of course, both of these works are compiled second hand accounts, but my historian’s training emphasized the importance of first hand eyewitnesses accounts and first hand sources. For Irish history, these are often harder to come by here in the U.S. and often rather expensive. Fortunately for us today at least in the U.S.A., the internet has brought many of these first hand accounts within easy reach through the magic of the internet via http://books.google.com/, https://archive.org/, The Haithi Trust Digital Library, or Project Gutenberg. With the help of these and other websites, my Kindle now contains a small library of books about the 1916-1923 period written and published close to the actual events often by eyewitnesses and even participants, as well as original collections of poetry and songs.
This books will also present the full range of viewpoints, positions, and interpretations of the events of 1916-1923 which I suggest but will not insist you read because all of them can offer insights into what actually happened and how different people saw and interpreted the events they witnessed. You don’t need to read this with the expectation of it changing your mind, but a differing point of view can help you gain a deeper and fuller understanding of your own interpretations, views, and opinions about the events of the past and of the present.
By way of illustration, I’ll list a few of them with one or more of the urls in the hopes that one of them will work for you. Given variations in copyright laws, I cannot guarantee that all or even any of these will work for all of you but we’ll hope for the best and I’d like to hear who finds they cannot get any of them to work.
You can also search the collections accessible through these various websites for additional books on Ireland and books beyond the theme of 1916-1923. The key is to carefully choose your search terms and set the parameters to either broaden or narrow your search. The following works were the results of two searches using “Ireland, 1916” and “Dublin, 1916” with no other limits to set out a quite broad search.
Selections from my Kindle:
"History of the Sinn Fein Movement and the Irish Rebellion of 1916", by Francis P. Jones, published by P J Kenedy & Sons, in 1917 (447 pages). Account by an American author and friend of Sinn Fein and a number of its leaders, one of the earliest to appear after the events so there are things reported in here that we later learn we not correct.
"Gun Running for Casement in the Easter Rebellion", by Karl Spindler, published in 1921 by W. Collins sons. 242 pages long. Karl Spindler was the German naval officer who commanded the merchant ship posing as the Aud in order to deliver rifles, machine guns, and ammunition to the Irish rebels in 1916. This is his post-war account of that experience.
"The Irish Rebellion of 1916 and Its Martyrs: Erin’s tragic Easter", by Maurice Joy, published by Devin-Adair, in 1916. 425 pages. A compilation of firsthand accounts fromPadraic Colum, Maurice Joy, James Reidy, Sidney Gifford, Rev. T. Gavan Duffy, Mary M. Colum, Mary J. Ryan, and Seumas O'Brien and edited by Maurice Joy and published soon after the Rising.
"Six Days of the Irish Republic: A Narrative and Critical Account of the Latest Phase of Irish Politics", Louis G. Redmond-Howard, published by John W Luce in 1916. 131 pages long. Prolific author and journalist Louis G. Redmond Howard , nephew of John Redmond, discusses the Easter Rising.
"The Unbroken Tradition", by Nora Connolly O'Brien, daughter of James Connolly, published by Boni and Liveright in 1918. 202 pages.
"Trial of Sir Roger Casement", by Sir Roger Casement, published by Cromarty Law Book Company, 1917. 304 pages.
"The Irish Orators: a History of Ireland's Fight for Freedom", by Claude Gernade Bowers, published by The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1916. 528 pages.
"Poems of the Irish Revolutionary Brotherhood", a collection of works by Padraic Colum, Thomas MacDonagh, Joseph Mary Plunkett, and Sir Roger Casement, published by Small, Maynard in 1916. 60 pages
"The Golden Joy", poems by Thomas MacDonagh, published by O'Donoghue in 1906. 85 pages.
"What Could Germany do for Ireland?", by James K. McGuire, published by Wolfe Tone, 1916. 309 pages. Mayor of Syracuse, New York and advocate for Ireland and independence with a number of titles to his credit on the subject.
I also found some period literary works of possible interest such as James Joyce’s first published novel - "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man", published in 1922 by W. Huebsch, Incorporated. 299 pages.
"The Celtic Dawn: a Survey of the Renascence in Ireland", 1889-1916", by Lloyd R Morris, The Macmillan Co, 1917. 251 pages. An early work by American author Lloyd R Morris
"John Bull's Other Island: With Preface for Politicians", a play written by George Bernard Shaw, published by Brentano's in 1916. 126 pages. Shaw's play about an Englishman in Ireland offers him the playwright and thinker an opportunity to share a number of observations about Ireland, England, their politics, and the two peoples. One of my personal favorites.
"National and Historical Ballads,Songs, and Poems", by poet and editor Thomas Osborne Davis, published in 1870, Thomas Osborne Davis. You will find the familiar words and sometimes the origins of a number of the songs about Ireland we still enjoy today.
"The Wild Swans at Coole", by William Butler Yeats, published by Macmillan, 1919. 114 pages.
Each of these offer lots more to read that is of interest and I encourage you to explore what they have on offer! Good hunting and good reading!!