Owen Dudley Edwards


1938- ; historian; b. Dublin, s. of Robert Dudley Edwards; ed. Belvedere, UCD, Johns Hopkins (Baltimore), and Reader in History at Edinburgh University from 1968; close collaborator with T. W. Moody in the New Irish History project, but later fell out in notorious rift; opposed ‘embittered’ views of Irish nationalist historians; later appt. Professor of English and American Studies. DIW

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  • The Sins of Our Fathers, Roots of Conflict in Northern Ireland (1970);
  • The Mind of an Activist – James Connolly (1971);
  • P. G. Wodehouse, A Critical & Historical Essay (1977);
  • with Gwynffor Evans, Ioan Rhys, and Hugh MacDiarmid, Celtic Nationalism (1968);
  • Burke and Hare (1981, rep. 1994);
  • A Quest for Sherlock Holmes (1982; Edinburgh (1983);
  • ed. with Fergus Pyle, 1916, The Easter Rising (1968);
  • ed. Conor Cruise O’Brien Introduces Ireland (1969);
  • ed. with Bernard Ransom, James Connolly, Selected Political Writings (1973);
  • ed. with George Shepperson, Scotland, Europe and the American Revolution (1976);
See also ‘Patrick MacGill and the Making of a Historical Source; with a handlist of his works’, in The Innes Review of the Scottish Catholic Historical Association, 37, 2 (1986), pp.73-99.

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Willy Maley, review of Burke and Hare (rep. 1994), in History Ireland (Summer 1994), p.62.

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Anthony Trollope, Irish Writer’, in Nineteenth Century Fiction, 38 1 (June 1983), pp.1-42 [on Irish identity]: ‘Yet I wish here to go farther. Trollope, almost alone of all British-born writers on Ireland in the nineteenth century, reminds us of the twentieth-century error which assumes Irish and British separation to have been inevitable, an error gratifying to modern separatist nationalists and British conservative apologists alike. In arguing that Ireland could never be integrated into the United Kingdom, each of these groups has a stake, the Irish separatist to gain legitimacy for the highly novel solution from which he benefited, the British conservative to justify the loss of Ireland on the ground that, since it could never be held, no blame attaches for losing it. Nevertheless, in the nineteenth century Ireland was part of the United Kingdom, and it was possible for an Anthony Trollope, going from Britain to Ireland, or for a Phineas Finn, going from Ireland to Britain, to have a single as well as a dual identity. Being parts of a totality, they saw, or rather Trollope saw and made Finn see a subordinate separation. They could and did experience both an Irish and a British identity, even as nineteenth-century Scottish writers could find a Scottish and an English identity. But Trollope was more than a mere sojourner in Ireland. He met Conor Cruise O’Brien’s definition that to be an Irish writer is, in the end, to be possessed, obsessed, and in some way to be mauled by Ireland. [See under Cruise O’Brien, Quotations, infra.] [Cont.]

Anthony Trollope, Irish Writer’ (1983): The Landleaguers becomes our great witness here. It is not, as with Tennyson or Stevenson, a bitter attack on what “those people” are doing: it is an attack on what “my people” are doing, and the sense that it is “my” values to which they are doing it. The anger is that of George Moore in Parnell and his Island (1887) or Edith Somerville and Martin Ross in Naboth’s Vineyard (1891). Even though the warfare carried out by the Irish agrarian rebels on fox hunting seems a very frivolous symbol to our generation as a focal point for that sense of anger, yet the fox hunt existed for all four of them as proof of the humanity, fellowship, courage, and excitement which they proudly saw as Irish. Moore, apparently the least engaged in such things, makes his denunciations of the war against the fox hunt the climax of his narrative. […] And the Land Leaguers, in the practice exhibited by their blocking hunts as a protest, and in the theory conveyed by their teachings that the day of the hunt would be over when they finally came into their own, foretold the end of an institution and a society which Trollope adored.’ (pp.3-4.) [Cont.]

Anthony Trollope, Irish Writer’ (1983) - cont.: ‘The “Black ’47” [famine year] was not, as bitter Irish commentators would claim, a conscious British crime against Ireland - indeed Sir Robert Peel’s government before it gave way to the laissez-faire Whigs of 1846 did more for famine relief than would have been undertaken by any other government in Europe - but it must have left in many minds the unspoken message of British failure to govern Ireland competently, in mockery of the confidence with which Britain had entered on that task under the Union of 1800.’ (p.7.)

Easter 1916: ‘The Easter Week Rising [of 1916] was an intensely British episode, quite apart from the British births of Clarke and Connolly, the British ancestral part-origin of Pearse, MacDonagh, Cathal Brugha, the brothers Boland, and others. In fighting against Britain, the Easter insurgents responded to the same mood which led so many to fight for Britain. The ideals were the same: militarism, honour, patriotism, self-sacrifice, manhood, adventure and above all a desire to testify to spiritual yearnings defying the grey calculations of a secure and cautious life.’ (In Edwards, Eamon de Valera, Cardiff, 1987, p.48; quoted in Richard English, ‘“The Inborn Hatred of Things English: Ernie O’Malley and the Irish Revolution, 1916-1923’, in Past and Present, May 1996, p.181.)


J. J. Lee, ed., Ireland 1945-1970 (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979), reviewed, The Irish Times (15 Dec 1979): Edwards gives handsome praise to the editor as contributor of the two best essays and also notices a seminal essay on language, literature, and culture by Gearoid Ó Tuathaigh, and John Whyte on Church and State. ‘It is inadequate to say of the Leader within the period that it “wended its own quiet way, occasionally sending out sparks” [as Douglas Gageby does]. For almost all of the first decade covered by this book it was an extraordinarily sophisticated commentator on Irish domestic and international affairs, and on the world scene, to say nothing of its explosive cultural contributions, and repays attention better than any other Irish weekly of the period.’

Gombeen Man - ‘Patrick MacGill [&c]’, Innes Review of the Scottish Catholic Historical Association (1986), Edwards defines a gombeen man as ‘Catholic, patriotic, hypocritical and avaricious’.

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Burke and Hare (1994) - a rep. edn., was reviewed by Willy Maley in History Ireland (Summer 1994), p.62.

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