Young People's History of Ireland - George Towle

This outstanding history of Ireland is a fascinating account of the troubled land that suffered more centuries of brutal oppression, land confiscation, and forced colonization at the hands of Britain, than any other nation. The history of Ireland is critical for understanding the manner in which the aristocracy of England, from Tudor times to the 19th century, controlled the government and implemented policies intended to benefits its members and favored citizens, with utter disregard for the rights of other peoples. Irish history is the best possible antidote to the sometimes overly rosy portrait of English history that is typically presented to young people.

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[Book Cover] from History of Ireland by George Towle
[Frontispiece] from History of Ireland by George Towle


[Title Page] from History of Ireland by George Towle


Nothing could better illustrate the deplorable relations of England and Ireland, than the complete absence of Irish history from both English and Irish schools and public libraries. So far as English power could reach, Irish history has been obliterated, misrepresented, or left unwritten. The English story of Island would not bear telling, and it must not be told.

If the Irish nation were an unimportant, uninteresting, unrelated element, the students of English, except the Irish themselves, might be excused for ignoring it. But this is far from being the case. In the unbroken lines of nationalisties, there are few, if any, longer than that of Ireland.

By ethnology, philology, geography, history, by the beauty and wealth of the country, and the sentiment and character of its people, Ireland must be ranked with the best defined nationalities.

To justify her oppression, England has resorted to a system of misrepresentation and misreport. Irish antiquities have been doubted and belittled. The natural resources of the land have been left unused, and have been underrated. The Ancient history of Ireland has been set down as unreliable, mythical,—a story born of Celtic pride, imagination, and passion.

Yet the student who turns to the history of Ireland finds at a glance that he has entered an original and authentic region, on a study not only national, but racial. He finds a distinct expression of architecture in the archaic round towers and other Celtic remains; of law, in the revered and beautiful Brehon Code; of music, in the marvelously sweet and simple strains coming down from prehistoric times, and still sung by the peasant girls and played by the wandering minstrels; of decorative art, in the fantastic tracings of Gaelic stones and manuscripts; of language and literature, in the ancient and eloquent Irish tongue, which is as complex and as perfect as classic Greek and as old as primitive Sanscrit; of religion in the nature-worship of the Magi or Druid, with its Baaltan ceremonies clearly down to the Time of St. Patrick,—a comparatively modern period in Irish history, though separated from us by fourteen centuries.

Irish history, according to the Englishman, begins only when he began to write it; and he wrote it after his own knowledge and for his own purpose. From the twelfth century, the period covered by English historians after their fashion, the history of Ireland is the story of an endless fight,—of an ancient nationís brave struggle to keep its own from the hands of a powerful foreign invader, filled with personal rapacity and an ultimate political determination to make the island a component part of Great Britain.

To follow the unbroken Irish line through all these phases, is a work undertaken by numerous historians of other nations. It is a hopeful sign to see the task undertaken by competent hands in America.

The Celtic element will always be an important and progressive element of the American population. The history of its origin and development is a proper and necessary study in every American school. It is a strange fact that up to the present time, Irish history has not been studied even in the private schools of the Irish-American element.

From the so-called "national schools" of Ireland, the national history is banished as a crime. The original and leading purpose of those schools was to educate the people out of a knowledge of their own national history.

It is not too sanguine a hope that we have now seen the beginning of attention to a field that has been too long neglected.