WT Cosgrave: The Steady Hand

Eoin Purcell

WT Cosgrave & Tim Healy (left) at the State Funeral of Kevin O'Higgins (Courtesy of UCC MultiText)

In a very Irish manner
We celebrate one body of neglected heroes while ignoring one fine example. In the hype and passion that has surrounded the reawakening of compassion for our fallen countrymen of World War One, I almost forgot to remember one of Ireland’s greatest unsung heroes, W.T. Cosgrave. Cosgrave was first Chairman of the Irish Provisional Government (following the deaths of Griffiths & Collins in August 1922) from August to December 1922 and then he was the first President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State from 1922

For me, Cosgrave represents a tradition that is sorely underplayed in Irish History, the practical democrat who drives progress and development at the expense of drama and self aggrandizement. Too often we choose to laud the violence and the flamboyant failures rather than the solid builders who achieved real success for Irish people on the ground.

Forged by war
Faced with an unenviable position in 1922-1923 he rose to the challenge and lead our fledgling state for a decade that saw its fair share of tragedy and triumph but which remarkably saw Ireland remain both democratic and relatively peaceful.

That is not to say that Cosgrave did not have failings. For sure, he might have been more inventive in economic policy or less conservative in his social outlook, but the prevailing mood was broadly in line with his thinking on these issues, and in the later half of his tenure, the economic climate hardly encouraged inventiveness!

On balance, the most incredible feat was the peaceful transfer of power in 1932 to the losers of the civil war, Fianna Fáil and Eamon de Valera. Even allowing a decade for the bitterness of the civil war to dissipate, more recent evens like the assassination of Kevin O’Higgins in 1927.

But the often overlooked work that was achieved in terms of Ireland’s position within the Commonwealth was also remarkable. By the time Fianna Fáil came into power in 1932, Cosgrave’s government had dismantled the majority of the barriers to create a full Irish Republic.

I’ll write more on this during the week, I just thought it warranted a mention, but now it has my mind running!

Some history links 15 November 2008

Eoin Purcell

Fencing duel at the University of Wisconsin--Madison, ca. 1970. (uwdigitalcollections via Flickr cc)
Fencing duel at the University of Wisconsin--Madison, ca. 1970. (uwdigitalcollections via Flickr cc)

A really intriguing map from Strange Maps showing the correlation between cotton picking areas in 1860 and areas that voted for Barack Obama. Here

Today in 1777, the Articles of Confederation were first agreed and proposed. Well worth marking. Here, here and here.

A rather nice few posts about duelling. Here, here and here.

Macmillan & ebooks

Eoin Purcell

Images thanks to Flickr user pt and cc.
Images thanks to Flickr user pt and creative commons.

Palgrave Connect
Bookbrunch (which is fast becoming my book news source of choice, the fee structure cannot be far away!) offers an interesting story on Palgrave Mamillan’s launch of an ebook platform:

Palgrave Macmillan is to launch its own ebook platform, Palgrave Connect, in January 2009. More than 4,000 ebooks will be available in collections organised by year of publication and by discipline, with 2009 and backlist collections available to purchase on a one-time fee, perpetual access basis

Macmillan seems to understand digital. It’s a brave statement and one I may yet regret, but I think they have learned an enormous amount about how digital can work and how valuable communities are from their protected (from the perils of the TRADE market I stress) efforts at Nature. It seems to me too that they are the furthest along the road to offering any real competition to Google and its access platform.

I’m interested to see how this floats come January and launch. I’ll keep you posted!

The Stockholm Bloodbath: Betrayal & History

Eoin Purcell

With thanks of Wikipedia
With thanks to Wikipedia

This is a nasty one
History is full of rich incidents like the Stockholm Bloodbath, be it a massacre, the destruction of a city. In fact it is as full of these ridiculously violent events as it is full of events that offer hope, the promise of change and prosperity like this week’s election of Barack Obama.

A quick glance at the history of scandanavia offers some fascinating stories, everything from the Kalmar Union, the sinking of the Vasa and the older history of exploration, colonisation and Vikings. What stands out for me in this particular story is the betrayal.

History sparkles with stories of betrayal and turncoats. The Stockholm Bloodbath is only one such event. The nobility of Sweden were betrayed by the King of Denmark after they had sworn fealty to him. Having foolishly trusted his word, they were corralled in his presence and then executed over a number of days.

It sounds like fiction, a dastardly king betrays the rebels after they had a deal but it happened and it will continue to happen perhaps not as dramatically as in Stockholm. After all, promises are made everywhere, by everyone, sometimes we belive them, sometimes we view them skeptically, and sometimes we take them so to heart that we lose the natural skepticism that keeps us safe.

The nobility of Sweden probably somewhere in the back of their thought processes distrusted Christian II (they had fought a protracted campaign with him after all) so why did they put themselves in his power? I don’t know the answer to that question, but they did and events took their course.

I came across a nice passage while searching Google books:

Memoirs of the Courts of Sweden and Denmark During the Reigns of Christian VII. of Denmark and Gustavus III. and IV. of Sweden By John Brown

It would seem the King was not a man who wore loyalty too heavily!

As an aside
And on a better note Ireland this day, 18 years ago, had it’s own moment of Change & Hope when we elected the first female president of Ireland Mary Robinson. Not only was she the first female president, she was also the first candidate to defeat a candidate of Fianna Fáil in a presidential election.

RTÉ’s US Election Coverage

When theory becomes reality
One thing the internet does is allow organisations provide almost infinite options for their viewers/readers or listeners. You don’t see it too much in practice though.

That’s why I like RTÉ’s US election coverage (*) right now. They have revamped the site so it looks different from the news page: have look here and they have

More importantly they are pulling in material from around the web, provided by others that adds value for their users. The Political Compass, The NPR Feed, The Electoral College Explained and a really nice Electoral College Map and I’ve just spotted they have an electoral vote counter on the main page too!

By far the best element of the site though is the extra content and access to the correspondents and reporters who are in the US. There is a Charlie Bird blog, a Robert Shortt blog that includes some vlogs and a Mark Little blog. That is exactly what a media organisation should be using the web to do, to centralise their content and to pull in the best of the rest.

Very impressed,

(*) Some people I know [and like] work at rté.ie so I might be biased. I don’t think so, but I think it’s worth saying.