Roy Foster on Ireland’s Many Unmade Futures

“The best history,” says Roy Foster, “is written when we realize that people acted in expectation of a future that was never going to happen.” While this is the case for many countries, it’s especially true of Ireland—the land of The Troubles, of colonization, of revolution and reforms. This sympathy within his scholarship sets Foster’s work apart. Not content to simply document the facts of what did happen, he’s undertaken the role of reconstructing the motivations that animated the Irish people throughout its storied history--without which we cannot truly understand the Ireland of today.

Roy joined Tyler to discuss why the Scots got off easier than the Irish under English rule, the truths and misconceptions about Ireland as a policy laboratory for the British government, why spoken Irish faded more rapidly than Welsh, the single question that drove a great flowering of Irish economic thought, how Foster’s Quaker education shaped his view of Irish history, how the Battle of the Somme and the 1916 Easter Rising cemented the rift between the Northeast and the rest of the country, what went wrong with Irish trade policies between the 1920s and 1970s, the power of Irish education, why the re-emergence of The Troubles in the 1960s may not have been as inevitable as many people believe, the cultural effects of Ireland’s pro-Allied neutrality in World War II, how Irish visual art is beginning to be looked at in a similar way to Irish literature, the social and economic changes of the 1970s that began to radically reshape Irish society, the reasons for Ireland’s openness to foreigners, what Irish Americans misunderstand, and more.

Read a full transcript enhanced with helpful links, or watch the full video.

Recorded February 22nd, 2022

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