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Dublin 1916 - Clair Wills

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Dublin 1916 - the siege of the GPO
Clair Wills
Profile Books
UK Publication Date

Taken over by the Irish Volunteers on Easter Monday 1916 and held for nearly a week, the rebels finally surrendered the GPO to the Crown forces after heavy gun bombardment, and the ensuing conflagration reduced it to an empty shell and destroyed much of the centre of the city.Clair Wills' fascinating book also explores the twists and turns that the myth of the GPO has undergone in the last century. It has stood for sacrifice and treachery, national unity and divisive violence, for the future and the past.

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Clair Wills is Professor of Irish Literature at Queen Mary University of London. She has published widely on Irish literature and culture, and is the author of Reading Paul Muldoon (1998), and the acclaimed That Neutral Island: A History of Ireland during the Second World War (2007), which won the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History 2007.

She is to be congratulated on retelling that narrative with originality, economy and erudition.
Literary Review - Brenda Maddox

Anybody familiar with the events and personalities will enjoy the anecdotes and Wills's reflections, which are delivered with verve... Wills is at her best when discussing the poetry and dramatic works that were prompted by 1916...
Irish Times - Mary E Daly

A distinguished scholar of Irish literature as well as a formidably accomplished social historian, she is alert to the loaded implications of words and symbols. Her title is correspondingly significant: this is a book about the theatre of the GPO, the effect on Dublin and the resonances cast forward by the event. It is not an alternative to Townshend's Easter 1916, but an exploration of certain aspects; some of the best chapters deal with the 20s and the 60s. But she also possesses a sharp eye for the quiddity of the everyday, and a marvellous ear for quotation - as when one volunteer, told by James Connolly that "it didn't matter a damn if we were wiped out now as we had justified ourselves", privately decided that this was "a bit rugged"... Dublin 1916 absorbingly charts the reconstructions and reactions accompanying the half-centenary jamboree of 1966...Wills's stylish, suggestive and highly intelligent book provides a riveting commentary on that process...
The Guardian - Roy Foster

Clair Wills, in this fascinating study, shows how the building itself waxed and waned in the imagination as the state tried to identify itself, and how, later, a more mature society veered between remembering and forgetting.In a magisterial review of the sources (and, helpfully, of the literature in an extended bibliographical note) she focuses attention not on the Rising, but on the Post Office as the main centre of activity, the headquarters position where the general staff actually came under fire and, in the front line shared, the heat and burden of the day, the locale for the foundation myth of the national narrative...The week of the Rising is dealt with in fascinating detail, drawing on personal diaries and memoirs, contemporary newspapers and reports of official commissions. The main and well-known cast of characters are all there, but we are introduced to a variety of bit-players, extras, bystanders, opponents, critics, sympathisers and opportunistic looters. Much of this introduces an intimate, almost domestic detail, which counterpoints the lofty language of the Declaration, the amateur soldiering of the Volunteers, the relentless grinding into gear of the military machine, the looting, the citizens caught in crossfire, the rumour and counter-rumour that swept the city and the country.There are many engaging vignettes too -- the social distance between the intellectuals in the main office discussing morality and the soldiers on the roof trying to keep warm, of Desmond Fitzgerald trying to maintain restaurant service for the leaders while those on the roof complained of only getting tea and biscuits at infrequent intervals. There is a highly interesting account, too, of the movement into and around the GPO, to outlying outposts and other garrisons...
Irish Independent - Maurice Hayes

Clair Wills has painstakingly gathered eye-witness accounts, diaries and newspaper reports from the period in order to paint a detailed picture of one of the most fascinating few days in Ireland's history...Essential reading.
Irish Daily Star - N/A

This is an elegant, intelligent and literate account, taking in the historical blow-by-blow, cultural background and enduring (and enduringly contested) significance for Ireland and the world.
The Scotsman - Michael Kerrigan

Wills' potent historical monograph - a study in the elusive fabric of history - is complemented with numerous illustrations and a splendidly annotated further reading list.
Morning Star - Gordon Parsons

this short and punchy account... Wills makes an ideal guide. Not only is she steeped in the history of modern Ireland... but she is able to take the subject by the scruff of the neck and replace some wishful thinking with hard-nosed reality. She also possesses a fine line in irony... At a time when Ireland is still struggling with its republican past and the ghosts of previous struggles, this is an intelligent addition and one which will tickle a few brain cells.
Sunday Herald - Trevor Royle

Keyword Index
Ireland - History - Easter Rising, 1916.
Country of Publication
Number of Pages

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