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A new study of Eoin MacNeill

A New Study of Eoin MacNeill, Edited by Conor Mulvagh and Emer Purcell 

Eoin MacNeill, the inaugural Professor of Early (including Medieval) Irish History at UCD, was a pivotal figure in language nationalism, physical force nationalism, and politics in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Irish history. 

MacNeill is arguably best known as the man who tried to stop the 1916 Rising. However, as this book shows, as a newspaper editor, a language teacher, a historian, a paramilitary leader, a parliamentarian, a convict, and a cabinet minister, he shaped both the ideas and institutions of his own time while shaping scholarly understandings of the society and institutions of medieval Ireland through his teaching and writings. MacNeill was also a political theorist and even a propagandist who shaped the Irish-Ireland and Sinn Féin movements through his writings and his oratory. A supporter of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the Free State’s first minister for education, MacNeill lost his son Brian who was killed fighting on the anti-treaty side of Ireland’s Civil War. After independence, MacNeill was centrally involved in the attempt to redraw the Irish border in his role as the Free State’s representative to the Irish Boundary Commission. Its collapse took MacNeill’s political career down with it as he reverted to his passion for scholarship, drafted his memoirs, founded the Irish Manuscripts Commission, and delivered a landmark lecture tour in the United States.

This collection of essays, including contributions by members of the School of History – Conor Mulvagh, Diarmaid Ferriter, Elva Johnston, and Michael Laffan – confronts the complexities and apparent contradictions of MacNeill’s life, work, and ideas. It explores the ways in which MacNeill’s activities and interests overlapped, his contribution to the Irish language and to Irish history, his evolving political outlook, and the contribution he made to the shaping of modern Ireland.