Nicholas Canny

Nicholas Canny is Professor of Modern History at University Collage, Galway. His recent publication include Kingdom and Colony: Ireland in the Atlantic World, 1560-1800 and From Reformation to Restoration: Ireland 1534-1660, a volume in the Helicon History of Ireland. He was co-editor, with Anthony Pagden, of Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World, 1560-1800.


Nicholas Canny, 24 May 1990

A full-scale biography of Daniel O’Connell deserves close attention, if only because the subject was such a colossus in his own time. This particular biography calls for even greater respect because its author, Oliver Mac Donagh, has established himself as the most incisive and (with the late F.S.L. Lyons) the most prolific Irish-born historian of his generation. The compound is preferred over the simple adjective to describe Mac Donagh not because there is any doubt about his Irishness, but because most of his working life has been spent outside Ireland – at Cambridge and in Australia – and because the Ireland which features so prominently in his various studies of Late Georgian and Early Victorian society is represented by Mac Donagh as but one unit in a wider Hiberno-British world which, on the global level, stretched from Botany Bay to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and, at the more local level, from Westport to Gosport. Moreover, the prominence which Ireland enjoys in Professor Mac Donagh’s earlier writings is justified by him, first, because the administrative solutions devised for the acute social problems in that country were subsequently given wider application, and, second, because many statesmen and administrators who came to enjoy prominence and reputation in Britain had served their apprenticeship in Ireland.’

Upper Ireland

Nicholas Canny, 16 March 1989

Historians of Ireland seem more compelled than those of any other country to move beyond their immediate research interests to offer general appraisals as a means of explaining the present condition of their country. Some do this through the medium of radio or television, others offer contributions to one of the several multi-volume paperback histories of Ireland, while most cherish the ambition to advance their opinions in a single-volume history tracing developments in Ireland from some crucial date in the past to the recent present. Those few who realise this ambition can be certain of at least an earthly reward, since the demand for general histories of Ireland seems insatiable and sales can match those of a moderately successful novel. Roy Foster’s Modern Ireland has exceeded such expectations. It has recorded sales in excess of 12,000 hardback copies on the Irish market alone since its publication in October 1988.

A new history of the British Empire might be expected to concern itself with such issues as the construction of military dictatorship through the imposition of martial law; the violent seizure...

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Benedict Anderson, 21 January 1988

New York, Nueva Leon, Nouvelle Orléans, Nova Lisboa and Nieuw Amsterdam – already in the 16th century, Western Europeans had begun the strange habit of naming remote places in the...

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