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The Irish: A Photohistory, 1840-1940 
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Product Details 
224 pages 
Thames & Hudson 
Published 2002 
From Publishers Weekly 
The history of Ireland, at least from the advent of photography to the start of WWII, is solemnly rendered here by Sexton, a photo archivist. The book begins with harrowing images from the dawn of photography in the 1840s, which also happened to be the start of the potato famine in Ireland. Two categories of people often overlooked in early photography, the poor and women, are very much in evidence here, as they bore the brunt of suffering in the Irish countryside. The text, by historian Kinealy (This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-52), offers a general summary of the living conditions and political situation in Ireland up through the 1930s. The photos are abundant in number (271 b&w and sepia prints) and numbing in overall effect; the text is standard analysis. Together, however, the two merge into an eloquent portrait of a long century of struggle in what was one of Europe's poorest countries. Yet there's more than hardship here, including a portrait of James Joyce, thriving turn-of-the-century markets, and a handsome shop (with "shopgirls") in the Curragh, County Kildare.  
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.  
From Booklist 
*Starred Review* Here is a treasure: an assemblage of photographs from the most tragic hundred years in Ireland's history, from 1839, when the first Irish photographs were taken--just months after Daguerre invented the process--through the destitute years of the Great Hunger's aftermath (not surprisingly, there are no photographs of that disaster), to the revolution that made Ireland a modern, self-governing nation. The photographs, including those of such little-known women artists as Christine... read more  
Book Description 
The first Irish photographs date from 1840. In the century that followed, Ireland was to know tragedy and triumph, bitter struggle and agonized compromise. Much of that experience, now remote, is brought to life here in images so powerful that they remind one of the miracle that photography once seemed.  
Ireland in 1840 was a subject nation. Its predominantly Catholic, Gaelic-speaking people were ruled from Westminster by a parliament that was largely Protestant, British, and drawn from a narrow land-owning elite. In the 1840s, photography in Ireland was the genteel hobby of the leisured Anglo-Irish landed class. The well-to-do subjects of the daguerrotype portraits of the 1840s peer with bemused expressions toward the mysterious contraption in front of them. It is a shock to realize that many such images were taken as the Irish starved: between 1846 and 1851, over a million poor people died in the Great Famine, while an even greater number emigrated.  
In the following decades, Irish political life was dominated by the struggle for land rights, for Home Rule, and finally for independence. As that story unfolds in this enthralling visual history, we encounter inspirational leaders and impatient rebels, and their campaigns of persuasion and violence. We see too the injustices that inspired them, above all the mass eviction of destitute peasants from their homes and lands. And we see how the march of Irish nationalism was thwarted not only by British resistance but also by militant Unionism-the equally passionate desire of Ulster Protestants to remain part of the United Kingdom.  
Yet these images do more than tell a gripping political story. They give an insight into a people, a landscape, and a lost way of life. They capture the hard labor of rural survival: cutting peat for fuel, gathering seaweed, fishing, and tilling the soil, against the magnificence of the often-harsh Irish landscape. And they show the grandeur, elegance, and complacency of life in the Big House, home and symbol of the doomed Anglo-Irish elite. 271 photographs in color and duotone.
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