Author: Nini Rodgers
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Price: £66.00, £19.99 and £54.00 (e-book)
ISBN: 9780333770993, 9780230574779 and 0625228
For a long time, there was a tendency in Irish history to neglect Ireland's engagement with the wider world, other than through the study of migration. The British Empire, of which Ireland was a part, seemed a distant thing in Irish scholarship and was less readily seized upon as a subject for study than was the case with the Scots, whose partnership in imperialism has long been recognised. For Ireland, imperialism was something the Irish suffered, not that they did: after all, the British Empire began with the subjugation of Ireland.
Lately, a more complex picture has emerged. Nini Rodgers' richly researched account of slavery and anti-slavery in Ireland adds to a growing literature on Ireland and the Empire, examining in detail Irish activities in the African slave trade, the Caribbean slave economies and the evolution of an Irish anti-slavery movement. The book also looks at how slavery and imperialism transformed Ireland's economy.
The great strength of the work is its integration of many overlapping themes in economic and cultural history. It uses a range of sources (accounts, memoirs, letters, published official records) to analyse Ireland's role in the trafficking of Africans; Irish experiences of slavery; the participation of the Irish in slave revolts; the effects of slavery on Ireland itself; and the Irish anti-slavery movement. Students and teachers will find the rich primary source base useful in classroom work, with many potential avenues for dissertation topics.
The ever-present identity question at the heart of this book focuses on how we unpick the labels "Irish" and "British", when Ireland and Britain are so entangled. Such conceptual analysis, again, will stimulate both general readers and students. While it is right to examine the Irish involvement in slavery and its abolition, the British determined the trade in which the Irish participated, just as they shaped the wider context in which any Irish trader worked. The Irish participated in exploitative systems such as slavery, but did not manufacture them. This book will provide a benchmark for examining other features of Ireland's Atlantic interactions.
Who is it for? Advanced general readers and students studying Irish history and imperial history in depth. Deserves to be on all general history reading lists, too.
Presentation: Three parts, 15 chapters, a couple of nicely produced maps and a useful, long bibliography.
Would you recommend it? Yes, for general reading lists and for special subjects or masters courses on Ireland and Empire.