What I’m Reading

I am mid-way through this triple biography of great eighteenth century radicals:

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thoroughly enjoying this beast by Philip Dwyer:

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Just finished Konrad Jarausch’s mammoth new history of modern Europe, now onto something more homespun but much more readable, Jeremiah Murphys memoir of revolutionary adolescence in Kerry. Have now finished working my way through the entire Mario Vargas Llosa back catalogue.

Peter Carey’s ‘True History of the Kelly Gang’ is written in vernacular Hiberno-Australian English complete with utter lack of punctuation just like this which can get tiresome it is an engaging read nonetheless particularly in its depiction of racism against early Irish settlers in Australia and the transvestite tradition in Irish agrarian outrage which persisted in the colonial context

While in Latin America, I got stuck in to John Lynch’s ‘Simon Bolivar: A Life’, “the best biography to date of ‘the Liberator’ ” according to one review. Chronicles how circumstances forced Bolivar to depart from certain of his republican principles. Adheres very much to the ‘great man’ school.

enemyCurrently engrossed in William Craig’s ‘Enemy at the Gates’: a classic military history (you’ve probably seen the not-so-good film with heartthrob actors Jude Law and Joseph Fiennes, pictured) all about the epic, bloody battle for Stalingrad between 1942 and 1943. It’s a masterclass in narrative history and extremely readable.

I’m just coming to the end of John Keane’s ‘Tom Paine: A Political Life’. This mammoth political biography was first published in 1995 and tells the story of England’s great eighteenth century republican. I picked the book up while lolling around the Shambles in York. It’s an impressive achievement by Keane, who is now based at the University of Sydney http://sydney.edu.au/arts/government_international_relations/staff/profiles/john.keane.php

I found Elaine Byrne’s ‘Political Corruption in Ireland 1922-2010’ a little uncritical of the early Cumann na nGaedheal governments in the Free State era. However, she has brought to light interesting new material on the tribunals into political corruption of the 1940s involving Lemass, building on material revealed in ‘Democratic Dictator’. In particular, Byrne reveals some interesting links between Lemass and Archbishop John Charles McQuaid concerning the valuation of railway shares.

See http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/search?keywords=9780719086885&index=books&linkCode=qs&tag=manchunivepre-20

I picked up Miranda Vickers’ ‘The Albanians’ at Mother Theresa (Tirana) airport. It’s a short, well-written survey of modern Albanian history. Vickers’ mentor, Oxford Professor James Pettifer, was helpful in answering a few questions I had about the country prior to visiting the place on a recent research trip. Vickers provides similarly incisive commentary. The material is so rich – from the tragedy of King Zog, to the paranoid militarism of Enver Hoxha, to the post-communist chaos of the 1990s. I was disappointed that all the source material was in English, but this is a valuable survey text.


Stephen Kelly’s ‘A Conservative at Heart?: The Political and Social Thought of John Henry Newman’  sheds new light on the recently beatified English cardinal and his attitude to contemporary affairs. I was lucky enough to proof read sections of this book before it was published. The insights about Newman’s attitude to Fenianism were of particular interest to me, and this work is a thoroughly researched new angle on one of the most influential churchmen from these Isles.



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