Category Archives: Literature

The Irish Front – Republican Congress in London



The Irish diaspora has a long history of involvement in radical politics in Britain. Their contribution to the labour movement in the form of the Chartists, producing leading lights such as Feargus O’Connor and Bronterre O’Brien; the matchmakers strike in 1888 in East London; the London dockers strike of 1889; the influence of James Connolly and Jim Larkin; and the first Labour Minister for Health in the minority government of 1924 being the Irish-born John Wheatley; is well-established. The Irish have also formed their own branches of home-grown organisations in Britain, such as the IRB, the Gaelic League, and the IRA. I have recently started a postdoc at the Irish Centre for the Histories of Labour and Class at NUI Galway which examines the impact Irish independence had on the British working-class in the period 1922-1945. Part of this explores the life and politics of the Irish working-class diaspora in Britain at the time. In the Ireland of this time, arguably one of the most important, and certainly one of the most debated radical organisations to be formed (and fall-apart) was Republican Congress.

Congress was formed as a left-wing split from the IRA in 1934. For a number of years, the left within the IRA, led by Peadar O’Donnell, Frank Ryan, and George Gilmore amongst others, had attempted to reform the organisation in a leftward direction, convinced that the gun alone would not achieve the Republic. The IRA, they believed, needed to take-up social issues, engaged alongside the workers and small farmers in their day-to-day struggles to convince them of the relevance of the fight for the Republic that would bring an improvement to their lives. The IRA had made overtures in this direction with the formation of the socialist-republican Saor Éire in 1931, but the ensuing ‘red scare’ put paid to that venture. After a number of subsequent failed attempts of reform by the left, which culminated in a vote at the 1934 Army Convention, O’Donnell and the others walked out. A conference held in Athlone, County Westmeath on the weekend of 7-8 April issued a manifesto proclaiming the creation of Republican Congress with the call ‘We believe that a Republic of a united Ireland will never be achieved except through a struggle which uproots Capitalism on its way.’[1] The momentum behind Republican Congress grew throughout the summer of 1934. Strong branches were created in Achill, Leitrim, Kilkenny, Dublin and Waterford.[2] Congress engaged in many social campaigns to improve the lives of working-class people in Ireland, such as through the creation of the Tenants Leagues to fight for improvements in housing for the slum-dwellers of Dublin. Congress held its inaugural conference at Rathmines town hall from 29-30 September 1934, where, as is well known, it split. First-hand accounts are available from George Gilmore and Patrick Byrne here and here. Despite this, Congress continued to campaign until the end of the decade, the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 giving it a new lease of life.

Congress did not just organise in Ireland however, but also had a branch among the Irish diaspora in London. This included many talented individuals who would later go to fight and die in Spain such as Charlie Donnelly, Michael Kelly, and Tommy Patten. The Republican Congress in London even produced its own newspaper, Irish Front. I have been able to locate one copy of this dated 11 May 1935, Issue 5 of Vol 1, which is reproduced here. My apologies for the poor quality, it is a copy of a copy of a copy. From the issue I have found, Irish Front, although poorly-produced, provided a well-informed left analysis of Irish and British issues for the Irish diaspora. Its notices also give a tantalizing glimpse into the political activities of the Irish diaspora in Britain. The London branch of Congress would later fuse with other small organisations in 1938 to create the Connolly Association, an organisation which continues to this day and whose most famous member was the historian C. Desmond Greaves, author of a number of important works on twentieth-century Irish socialist and republican history, including The Life and Times of James Connolly (1961). Irish Front is an important publication in the history of labour and republican radicalism among the Irish in twentieth-century Britain. I appeal to anyone who may know of any other copies that are available, regardless of whether these be in a library or among your personal papers, in whatever quality, to please get in touch with me at

david DOT convery AT nuigalway DOT ie

Thank you, your help is much appreciated!

[1] George Gilmore, The Irish Republican Congress (Cork: The Cork Workers’ Club, 1978), p. 30.

[2] Patrick Byrne, The Irish Republican Congress Revisited (London: Connolly Publications Ltd, 1994), pp. 21-22.

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Filed under British History, Irish History, Labour History, Literature, Social History, Socialism, Spanish Civil War, Twentieth Century

Dónall Mac Amhlaigh and ‘The Middle Nation’

Galway-born Dónall Mac Amhlaigh (1926-1989) is perhaps best known as the author of Dialann Deoraí, first published in 1960 and translated into English as An Irish Navvy, a record of his experiences working in England in the 1950s. This frequently referenced work established him as a dominant voice of Irishmen in Britain, but he left a much broader legacy.[1] Máirín Nic Eoin has written about his works of fiction, most of which have a strong autobiographical bent, but his extensive body of journalistic prose remains largely unexamined.[2] Unfortunately historians and literary scholars alike have even further marginalized his untranslated Irish works due to lack of familiarity or engagement with the language.[3] These omissions seem particularly grave given that Mac Amhlaigh himself expressed dissatisfaction with Dialann Deoraí, calling it ‘a great lost opportunity’ because he felt he did not take full advantage of the ‘rich, virtually unworked subject’.[4] He viewed his last novel, Deoraithe [Exiles], a fictional (though autobiographically-based) treatment of the same topic, as a way to ‘make good’ this earlier fault.[5]

In the intervening years Mac Amhlaigh continued to write prolifically and his journalism shows the development of his social and political consciousness. Between 1966 and 1988 he wrote roughly 200 articles for the Irish Times in both Irish and English. These presented the experience of the Irish in Britain, from the perspective of a working-class urban Gaeilgeoir, primarily to an Irish audience who had remained in Ireland. This post examines a series of three articles published in October 1970 titled ‘The Middle Nation’, which takes the form of observational, and at times sharply critical, social commentary.[6] Mac Amhlaigh seeks to explain the difficult and ambiguous position of the Irish in Britain and in doing so addresses persistent class divisions among the immigrants and differing levels of attachment, or lack thereof, felt by members of that group to their heritage. Though written in 1970 he focused on his own generation, those who had come to Britain in the post-war years, and while the focus on male labourers in Dialann Deoraí has been perceived as homogenizing the image of this cohort, he clearly recognized its diversity.

As the word ‘middle’ in the title suggests, a primary theme of the series is the feeling of liminality, of belonging fully neither to Ireland nor Britain. In the first article Mac Amhlaigh addresses the issue of adjustment to life in Britain, questioning the nature of ‘assimilation’. He lambasts equally the Irish who ape British ways and those who seem in denial of the fact that they live in Britain. The former he stereotypes as:

People who “muck in” in village or suburban life, who get on committees, on dart teams, pay into divvi-clubs for Christmas and go on coach-outings to the seaside where they do a “Knees Up, Mother Brown” as good as any Cockney; who rarely read an Irish paper, bother their heads about Irish affairs, try to tune into Radio Éireann or sing a bit of an Irish song. Men who talk of foreigners, wogs and – so help me, God! – of Paddies, even![7]

Though he admits ‘they are not all so objectionable as this’, what bothers him about them is their ‘complete and wholehearted apostasy’, their abandonment of their Irishness. Though he hesitates to draw firm conclusions without ‘concrete evidence’ of statistics, he suggests that this type of person tends to be of the ‘professional and business’ class.[8] On the other hand,

There are a great many of our people who have never really come to terms with their exile, people to whom after nearly forty years of residence in England the day-old Irish newspaper is of more interest than the Mirror or the Express… who are, in speech and thought and manner, as uncompromisingly Irish as the day they left home… and these are the real casualties of Emigration, the ones who won’t or can’t integrate.[9]

This latter position seems equally reprehensible. What he criticizes in both extreme cases is the failure to acknowledge or even embrace liminal status, the failure to admit (or even take pride in) Irish heritage while also facing the realities of living abroad.

The second part of the title, ‘nation’, also poses somewhat of a paradox because while the term implies a degree of unity, the Irish in Britain comprise a heterogeneous group. Mac Amhlaigh addresses head-on issues of class divisions in the second article in the series, ‘Social Life and the Emigrant’:

It was Honor Tracy, I think, who remarked upon the almost pathological fear of some of the Irish abroad of coming into contact with each other. One would perhaps need to be Irish to appreciate this fully, to understand the vagaries of class-consciousness based less on real rank or wealth than upon an unshakeable belief in one’s superiority to another – however intangible the basis for the assumption (emphasis added).[10]

If attempting to create a ‘nation’ or sense of cohesion among an immigrant group, clearly these divisions carried over from rural Irish society are problematic whether real or imagined. To this he adds factors of ‘apathy, indifference and the traditional Irish failure to agree on things’.[11] He argues that though social organizations existed and the Irish Post (the newspaper of the Irish in Britain) might cover the functions they organized, these were formal rather than ‘free-and-easy’ affairs. From his own experience he suggests that even people from the same locality in Ireland resist associating with one another outside a close group of relatives: ‘without exception, these people will say of each other: A níl aon nádúr ionntab sín, tá siad coimhthioch – “There’s no nature in them, they’re standoffish.”’[12] He feels no compunction in criticizing them for it, for their unwillingness ‘to take the first step’ or to break out of the ‘world of taboos, of inhibitions,’ of the ‘smothering conformity which forbade them to think as individuals’.[13] Clearly he thought life in Britain offered an opportunity to develop new perspectives and lamented the failure of many to embrace that chance.

However, despite these shortcomings in the final article in the series, ‘Finding Our Feet’, Mac Amhlaigh does offer hope of redemption. He believes that Irish immigrants have made progress and argues that they are (in 1970) more comfortable with their place in British society than even a decade previously:

It is very evident that our exiles are fast shedding that extreme touchiness – well enough justified in the past, no doubt, but which sometimes bordered on paranoia – and are now able to make a more mature appraisal of themselves and of their position in what has come to be known as the host community (emphasis added).[14]

He says he has witnessed changing attitudes both of the Irish towards the English and vice versa. This includes ‘a change in our estimation of ourselves’ from ‘a sense of insecurity’ to a feeling of more ‘assurance’. However, the spectre of the Troubles and its potential impact lurked in his mind and he states that ‘barring a worsening of the Northern situation we will become steadily more identifiable with our hosts’.[15] However, this does not imply forgetting their origins and the article concludes with the hope that ‘emigration may continue to fall off and that once more we may be able to restock the great lonely spaces of Ireland,’ evoking the image of emigrants since the famine as ‘the vanishing Irish’ and on the eve of a (brief) reversal of those trends.[16]

Though he attempts to resolve the issue of being both Irish and living in Britain, arguing that dual identity or loyalty is indeed possible, there is still an ambivalence towards always remaining ‘the middle nation’. In an interview in the 1980s he said that ‘most of us, even though we’ve lived in Britain, and seen our children grow up here, could never give our hearts to this country in the same way we could to Australia or New Zealand or some place like that, because of the history’.[17] He says he has no anti-English feelings but, speaking for the Irish in Britain as a whole, there is a lingering sense of equivocation: ‘We have that feeling, on the one hand, of a certain amount of gratitude, if gratitude isn’t misplaced, that we got work here when we couldn’t have got it at home, and on the whole we’ve lived reasonably well here… On the other hand there’s the fact of finding ourselves in a country we might perhaps rather not be in.’[18] He certainly was not alone in expressing this sentiment and Liam Harte argues that ‘the dialectical tension between adherence to a fixed originary identity and the evolution of a flexible, contingent migrant identity’ is one of the ‘central tropes’ in the literature of the Irish in Britain, though each author gives it an individual colour.[19] Mac Amhlaigh’s ‘The Middle Nation’ series is a perceptive example of how the personal reflections contained in his journalism can contribute to our understanding of the experiences of the post-war emigrant generation and its evolving sense of identity. In the now more widely recognized and growing body of writing by and on the Irish in Britain Dónall Mac Amhlaigh’s voice remains unique and deserving of attention in its own right.

[1] On Dialann Deoraí see: Bernard Canavan, ‘Story-tellers and Writers: Irish Identity in Emigrant Labourers’ Autobiographies, 1870-1970’, in Patrick O’Sullivan (ed.), The Irish World Wide: History, Heritage, Identity. Vol. 3, The Creative Migrant (Leicester University Press, London, 1994), pp.162-5; Tony Murray, London Irish Fictions (Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, 2012), pp.79-85; Clair Wills, ‘Realism and the Irish Immigrant: Documentary, Fiction, and Postwar Irish Labor’, Modern Language Quarterly, vol.73, no.3 (Sept. 2012), pp.373-94.

[2] Máirín Nic Eoin, ‘An Scríobhneoir agus an Imirce Éigeantach:  Scrúdú ar Shaothar Cruthaitheach Dhónaill Mhic Amhlaigh’, Oghma 2 (1990), pp.92-104.

[3] Though historians and literary scholars frequently quote and cite An Irish Navvy, it is almost always the English translation rather than the original (as is the case in the works listed in footnote 1).

[4] Dónall Mac Amhlaigh, ‘Documenting the Fifties’, Irish Studies in Britain, no.14 (Spring/Summer 1989), p.9.

[5] Dónall Mac Amhlaigh, in Nigel Gray (ed.), Writers Talking (London: Caliban Books, 1989), p.181.

[6] The drawings that accompany these articles are also very interesting, but unfortunately copyright prevents me from reproducing them here. They are worth looking up if you have access to the Irish Times via the ProQuest Historical Newspapers archive.

[7] Dónall Mac Amhlaigh, ‘The Middle Nation’, Irish Times, 14 Oct. 1970.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Dónall Mac Amhlaigh, ‘Social Life and the Emigrant’, Irish Times, 15 Oct. 1970.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Dónall Mac Amhlaigh, ‘Finding Our Feet’, Irish Times, 16 Oct. 1970.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Dónall Mac Amhlaigh, in Gray (ed.), Writers Talking, p.181.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Liam Harte, ‘“You want to be a British Paddy?”: The Anxiety of Identity in Post-war Irish Migrant Writing’, in Dermot Keogh, Finbarr O’Shea & Carmel Quinlan (eds.), The Lost Decade: Ireland in the 1950s (Mercier, Douglas Village, Cork, 2004), p.234, p.236. He also makes the problematic assertion that ‘while migrant writers of the 1950s such as Dónall Mac Amhlaigh and John B. Keane are primarily concerned with chronicling the loneliness and alienation of the Irish in post-war England, Walter Macken and Tom Murphy focus on the dilemmas faced by migrant protagonists who wish to evolve new narratives of belonging’ (p.238). While that may be true of Dialann Deoraí (the only work of Mac Amhlaigh’s that Harte cites in relation to that statement), it does not hold true for all of Mac Amhlaigh’s later work.


Filed under British History, Irish History, Literature, Twentieth Century

Novel Notion: Reflections on History and Fiction

The historical novel is one of the most significant literary trends of the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I am an avid reader of historical fiction, particularly those set usually in Victorian British or American contexts, which revolve around a mysterious murder. History as a source of literature has been around as long history has; one needs only to remember that Homer’s Iliad, as well as being literary, is historical; or think of Shakespeare’s great historical plays from Julius Caesar to Henry V. In the case of a historian like Edward Gibbon, writing before the novel as a form had really taken hold, to write history was to entertain as well as enlighten.

gregorys other boleynThe historical novel is a rather new phenomenon; its proliferation is driven largely by the success of female authors like Philippa Gregory,  who has been writing historical novels since the late 1980s, but more particularly her Other Boleyn Girl and most recently in the wild success of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall; it is also one which historians would do well not be as dismissive of the genre as was David Starkey when he was quoted as saying that

The modern historical novel… is largely written about women, written by women and read by women. Stuff like The Other Boleyn Girl. It’s a quite amazing book, in the sense that the author, Philippa Gregory, has managed to write a historical novel based on four known facts. I think it’s one fact per 75 pages.[1]

Toby Litt, writing in 1998 was equally dismissive of historical fiction in an article in the journal Irish Pages, and used the device of a reader of one of Gregory’s novels for his purposes, in a soaring invective that gives the form no quarter, says that historical fiction is written and read in ‘bad faith’.[2]  Rather than speaking on her behalf, I’ll let Gregory speak for herself; in an article entitled “Born a Writer: Forged As A Historian” she concludes her ruminations on the topic by saying

People often ask me whether I am firstly a writer of fiction or a historian. It’s an easy one to answer. I cannot help but be a story-teller, it is my way of describing the world; but I have learned to be a historian, it is my way of understanding the world. I am both. [3]

She is thoughtful about the implications at least on a personal level, if not on a professional. Such dismissive remarks  like those from Starkey or Litt, to dismiss pretty well all historical novels on the basis of their dislike for Gregory are rather narrow and more to the point, far from the full story. [4]

mantels hall

In 1997, the Historical Novel Society was founded in Britain. In 2010, the first Walter Scott Prize was awarded. In 2011, Britain’s Institute of Historical Research held a four-day conference: Novel Approaches: from academic history to historical fiction. The website of the conference, includes podcasts of the proceedings as well as general introductions to each days theme. On Day Four, when the theme was “Does The success of historical fiction benefit or threaten academic history?”, Matt Phillpott asked

Not long ago the challenge of postmodernism sought to overturn the historian’s craft and still to this day there is a degree of uncertainty as to where history ends and fiction begins…What is perhaps more interesting, however, is the predominance of historians who can only be described as frustrated novelists in disguise. How many are there out there who sheepishly dream of unburdening themselves from facts and evidence so that they can spring their imaginations free with historical fiction?

A Suzi Feay book review in the Financial Times on 1 July, 2011 noted of the historical novel that

Historical fiction is riding a wave of critical and popular acclaim in Britain. Philippa Gregory and CJ Sansom, the great names in commercial historical fiction who confine themselves to the well-trodden paths of history such as Tudor England or the Regency, are now being joined by authors more familiar for their scholarly non-fiction…

Once dismissed as “bodice-rippers”, historical novels tended not to be literary prize-winners; that is, until Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall came along in 2009. A subtle and sympathetic portrait of Thomas Cromwell, one of English history’s supposed villains, it won the 2009 Man Booker prize and also the inaugural 2010 Walter Scott prize, which was set up, ironically, to counter a perceived lack of respect for historical fiction.

The success of Wolf Hall seemed to chime with a shift in popular history writing. Personality-rich, royalty-based tales in the mould of Jean Plaidy had looked old-fashioned during the social history boom of the 1960s and 1970s. Historians were stressing underlying forces rather than large personalities, uncovering the lives of the people rather than the thin top-crust of society.

As she notes though, the rise of popular historians like Starkey who focus on major figures of history, has meant the rise of more traditional historical novels again, but I would argue that a different breed of historical novel also now exists, beyond revamped versions of the old ‘bodice-rippers’. After all Mantel’s Wolf Hall focuses on creating a humane version of one of English history’s great villains. The historical novels of Matthew Pearl for instance, revolve around élites, but typically non-political historical personages: Sigmund Freud, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Edgar Allan Poe, or Charles Dickens.

Alex Grecian's debut novel The Yard

Alex Grecian’s debut novel The Yard

Recently I have been reading two historical novels: The first of these, The Yard by Alex Grecian, was the debut novel from the comic book artist behind Proof. The second was The Prague Cemetery, by the Italian author Umberto Eco, famous to most people as author of In The Name of the Rose. The Yard, the publisher boasts of its author, is penned by a man who had never even been to London – a boast because the reviews of the books praise the ability of the book to evoke late Victorian London so well; and certainly it does. Set in 1889, a year after the Ripper murders, which while they did invoke horror, also saw a building in the Whitechapel area that was ‘by September 1888…home to a waxwork exhibition themed around the Ripper murderers’ where as Matthew Sweet notes ‘the killer was still active in the very streets on which this display was being offered.’[5] This was a horror mixed with a morbid fascination. But the failure to capture the Ripper, and the possibility of both him and others like him still roaming the London streets hang as densely over the murder to be solved in Grecian’s The Yard as the fog of London hung over the city he renders. Grecian’s evocation of late Victorian London owes a great deal it seems not just to historical research (there is certainly evidence of it in the details of his novel) but also to the popular visions of the Victorian world – dark, shadowy, full of steaming horses and hansom cabs, gas-lights and cobblestones.

Grecian’s Victorian London it seems to me is a mélange of the world conjured on screen for us by the recent Sherlock Holmes films (with Downey, Jr. And Law), From Hell (with Johnny Depp as the Ripper), in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, or even the similarly magician-centric Illusionist (which evokes Victorian Vienna with all the gas-lit glory you might expect). In Grecian’s novel , London is a Victorian world as rendered after a reappraisal of the Victorian era of the kind that Matthew Sweet conducted. One which Sweet insists was not ‘any right-wing nostalgia’ but rather a re-appraisal based on the fact that our view of them ‘as cruel, hypocritical, repressive, intolerant, prudish, and cheerless’ is wrong-headed. Rather he hoped to convince readers of his book ‘that Victorian culture was as rich and difficult and pleasurable as our own; that the Victorians shaped our lives and sensibilities in countless unacknowledged ways; that they are still with us, walking our pavements, drinking in our bars, living in our houses, reading our newspapers, inhabiting our bodies.’[6]

The policemen, doctors, street beggars, prostitutes, children and criminals that inhabit the particular vision of Victorian London that Grecian creates are all recognizable – their ambitions are more in tune with those of today, particularly the ambitions of the bizarrely-named Welsh policeman Hammersmith (from the fictional town of Collier, Wales) who had no pride whatever in his family’s coal-mining tradition and was concerned to be upwardly mobile. The characters’ language, as rightly noted in the Observer review of the book, is wildly anachronistic – more at home in a Frank Miller rendering of Batman than Victoria’s London. But this is an out and out page turner. It combines my favourite things in a novel – historical setting and a murder mystery. On this last count at least, its historicity is interesting, introducing through the character of Dr. Kingsley two real-life historical pioneers of police work:  Alphonse Bertillon and Henry Faulds. Both of these men Dr. Kingsley refers to when demonstrating the new technique of brushing for fingerprints.[7]

Umberto Eco's The Prague Cemetery. Notice the similarity of presentation on this cover compared with Grecian's The Yard.

Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery. Notice the similarity of presentation on this cover compared with Grecian’s The Yard.

Yet to my mind, it doesn’t hold a candle to other similar recent efforts of other American novelists in the same vein. Jed Rubensfeld’s Interpretation of Murder, or Mathew Pearl’s The Last Dickens, or even his earlier efforts The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow are all much stronger showings than Grecian’s The Yard. Still this is a compelling novel – historical, but as is often the case – the historicity is secondary to the core functions of the novel. Eco’s novel betrays Eco’s learned qualities in a way that isn’t present in Grecian’s novel. In contrast to Grecian’s novel, for instance, the only fictional character to appear in The Prague Cemetery is the figure of Simonini. Of course, this is still a novel before it is anything else and is quite different from some of Eco’s other recent work like Inventing the Enemy say or his book with Jean-Claudé Carriére, This Is Not The End of the Book.  Peter Conrad, reviewing the book for the Observer in late 2011, sums up with the statement that ‘History is a nightmare, and Simonini’s enfevered babbling won’t help us to awaken from it.’ Be that as it may, it is no reason not to see the historical novel as an aide to the historian who might struggle to draw out the story that will drive their analysis along. And as with the historical profession, as Peter Beck notes, some historical novels bare the hallmark of greater scholarly research than others. Here I return to Beck’s consideration of Gregory, who holds a doctorate in history for work on popular fiction of the eighteenth century from the University of Edinburgh; Hilary Mantel’s work as Beck notes, though, by focusing less on the sex lives of the Tudors and more on their power relations in Wolf Hall is considered a more credible writer, and piece of historical fiction.[8] In general, it seems to me, this might be a fair assessment.

The popularity of such books, any more than the particular two which I have recently read, should not be cause for skepticism amongst academic historians, but rather it seems there are many lessons to be drawn from the best historical fiction. Many works of historical fiction, and I know for instance Rubenfeld and Pearl whose book I enjoy immensely, do include author’s notes on historical accuracy, and even occasionally include select bibliographies at the end of their novels. It is after all, another means of representing history, just like historical movies or even historically-minded comic strips (witness Hark! A Vagrant or the recent Irish publisher  O’Brien Press graphic novels on 1916 and the War of Independence).[9]

Perhaps what makes its popularity so terrifying to some historians is that its medium is the same as theirs – it comes in the form of a book; unlike a graphic novel, a comic strip or a film, historical novels are, much like popularly written history itself, widely and readily available to the reading public in their local bookshops. Perhaps it also derives from a feeling that style and substance are an either/or decision – the historical novel a case of style over substance – a view that sees these qualities as mutually exclusive rather than one being contingent on the other, and much academic history writing is the poorer for this jaundiced view of style. The aim should be not to have the reading of one discourage the reading of another, but rather encourage the reading of all three together. A novel idea? It doesn’t have to be.

[1] Quoted in Peter J. Beck, Presenting History: Past & Present, London: Palgrave MacMillan, 2012, p. 206

[2] Toby Litt, Irish Pages, Vol. 5, No. 1, Language and Languages (2008), pp. 111-115

[3] Philippa Gregory, History Workshop Journal, No. 59 (Spring, 2005), pp. 237-242

[4] There is also the not-unreasonable suggestion to be made that part of the problem is at least driven in part by gender disparity in terms of those who read historical novels; This suggestion is made by Diana Wallace who says that it has become ‘one of the most important genres for women writers and readers’, quoted in Beck, Presenting History, p.207

[5] Matthew Sweet, Inventing the Victorians, London: Faber & Faber, 2002, p.83

[6] Sweet, Inventing the Victorians, p.xii; p.232; p.xiii

[7] Alex Grecian, The Yard, London: Penguin 2013, pp.230-232

[8] Beck, Presenting History, pp.208-209

[9] A new book discussing representations of history on film worth seeking out is Jim Cullen, Sensing the Past:  Hollywood Stars and Historical Visions, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2012


Filed under Book History, Literature, Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century