Working on a project aimed at German tourists for the Irish Tourism Board this May, I realised that people still come to Ireland to enjoy the stereotypes: green fields, dramatic cliffs and the merry fiddler in the pub. Only few visitors seem to realise that Ireland has, like all other countries, a very interesting (and quite bloodstained) history.

From the Irish regiments that fought in the First World War, the Easter Rising 1916 to both the Anglo-Irish War 1919-1921 and the Irish Civil War 1921-22, these events formed Ireland as it is today, and learning about it offers a much broader picture of the island and a deeper understanding of why there are actually two countries on it.

Michael Collins bust
Michael Collins, image by acediscovery

I’m currently writing a book about the Irish War of Independence (or the Anglo-Irish War), and here are some movies and books that I found very helpful and enjoyable. Easily perusable from your armchair at home, here are slices of Irish history:

Michael Collins. Neil Jordan’s biopic about the Irish revolutionary leader, spy-mastermind and commander-in-chief of the IRA covers the beginnings of the Irish fight for independence from England, from Easter Rising to the Civil War, highly dramatised but nevertheless true to the character of the ‘Long Fella’. Stars Liam Neeson as the titular character and Severus Snape, err Alan Rickman, as Eamon de Valera.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Whereas Neil Jordan’s film focuses on big politics and urban warfare in Dublin, the 2006 movie directed by Ken Loach is about the social aspect of the Irish Revolution and guerrilla warfare in open country, featuring the reconstruction of a gun battle between IRA flying columns and so-called English ‘Auxiliaries’.

A Long Long Way. Sebastian Barry’s book about a young Dubliner fighting in the trenches of World War I in France was the ‘One City, One Book’ for Dublin in 2007.

A Star Called Henry. This book by Roddy Doyle follows the story of young Henry Smart, a boy from the Dublin slums, who fights in the Easter Rising and becomes a gunman in the Anglo-Irish war.

Peeler by Kevin McCarthy. A historical crime novel about a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary, who tries to find the murderer of a young woman amidst the chaos of the War of Independence in rural Cork, aided by a young IRA-man with the same goal.


Read more:

Crouching tiger, hidden dragon?
Bloomsday: it’s all about Joyce
Irish blogs on Blogs of the World


About the author

Marcel is a German expat living in Ireland and working for an online company with a colourfull logo. He loves doing stuff with words, and did not go to school to learn this. He likes Heavy Metal and trains and dislikes many other things. He is so old he still buys CD’s, but has not yet caught up with the idea of becoming an adult.