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On the Edge

Ireland's off-shore islands: a modern history

Diarmaid Ferriter

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01 March 2020
SHORTLISTED FOR THE ONSIDE NONFICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR 2018 The islands off the coast of Ireland have long been a source of fascination. Seen as repositories of an ancient Irish culture and the epitome of Irish romanticism, they have attracted generations of scholars, artists and filmmakers, from James Joyce to Robert O'Flaherty, looking for a way of life uncontaminated by modernity or materialism.

But the reality for islanders has been a lot more complex. They faced poverty, hardship and official hostility, even while being expected to preserve an ancient culture and way of life. Writing in her 1936 autobiography, Peig Sayers, resident of Blaskets island, described it as 'this dreadful rock'. In 1841, there were 211 inhabited islands with a combined population of 38,000; by 2011, only 64 islands were inhabited, with a total population of 8,500. And younger generations continue to leave.

By documenting the island experiences and the social, cultural and political reaction to them over the last 100 years, On the Edge examines why this exodus has happened, and the gulf between the rhetoric that elevated island life and the reality of the political hostility towards them. It uncovers, through state and private archives, personal memoirs, newspaper coverage, and the author's personal travels, the realities behind the dreadful rocks , and the significance of the experiences of, and reactions to, those who were and remain, literally, on the very edge of European civilisation.
By:   Diarmaid Ferriter
Imprint:   Profile
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Edition:   Main
Dimensions:   Height: 198mm,  Width: 129mm,  Spine: 24mm
Weight:   360g
ISBN:   9781781256442
ISBN 10:   1781256446
Pages:   400
Publication Date:   01 March 2020
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Diarmaid Ferriter is one of Ireland's best- known historians and is Professor of Modern Irish History at UCD. His books include The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000 (2004), Judging Dev: A Reassessment of the life and legacy of Eamon de Valera (2007), Occasions of Sin: Sex and Society in Modern Ireland (2009) and Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s (2012). His most recent book is A Nation and not a Rabble: The Irish Revolution 1913-23 (2015) He is a regular broadcaster on television and radio and a weekly columnist with the Irish Times. In 2010 he presented a three-part history of twentieth century Ireland, The Limits of Liberty, on RTE television.

Reviews for On the Edge: Ireland's off-shore islands: a modern history

On the Edge is a superb book, painstakingly researched and brilliantly written. * Irish Examiner * Ferriter skilfully poses big questions with the small stories of small places * Irish Times * ...packed with intriguing analysis and historical detail * Irish Independent * This timely book is a good a place as any to start an important debate * Sunday Independent (Ireland) * Ferriter's unique book abut Ireland's offshore islands, is a treasure trove of new research on the economies, cultures, survival strategies, evacuations and extraordinary people who inhabited places held up to us as the cradle of Gaelic civilisation. -- Catriona Crowe * Irish Times *


  • Short-listed for Bord Gais Irish Book Awards 2018 (UK)

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