Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

    Wandering in the Desert

    Ruth Gilligan
    Joyce is just one Irish writer who is alert to the Exodus story and its specific resonance within a national context. Hence the parallel between Moses and Parnell, each of whom ‘led a turbulent and unstable people from the house of shame to the verge of the Promised Land’.
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    Bohemian Travesty

    Tom Wall
    The bohemians of Munich, who led its shortlived socialist republic in 1919, ‘are a foreign legion, kept for amusement and fun’, wrote Victor Klemperer. But whatever about their entertainment value in the arts, their contribution to governance was to prove more inane than comic.
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    Faith of Our Fathers

    James Moran
    A history of Catholicism in Britain and Ireland written by a non-believer gives a broadly sympathetic view, through a fast-paced narrative that begins with the Reformation and continues until the twenty-first century, full of clear-eyed judgments about a cast of heroes and villains.
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    Liberal Among the Revolutionaries

    Hugh Gough
    Liberal Among the Revolutionaries
    Germaine de Staël was no democrat, but the issues that she raised - the relationship between public opinion and power, the destabilising impact of street politics, the ruthlessness of power struggles and the corrosive effect of personal ambition – remain pressing today.
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    Misery and Improvement

    John Swift
    The European Enlightenment made its mark in Ireland as well as elsewhere. In the middle decades of the eighteenth century there was optimism about improvement and progress, while at the same time poor harvests, famine and disease took off between 13 and 20 per cent of the population.
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    The Backward Look

    Pádraig Murphy
    The Backward Look
    The Russians, according to Svetlana Alexievich, are a people of misfortune and suffering whose best moments have come with war. Following the failed experiment to drive an entire nation ‘with an iron hand to happiness’, the people no longer have the culture of happiness or the taste for a joyful life.
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    The Truth and Colonel McGrath

    Tom Wall
    By the closing stages of World War Two, the Germans had assembled a substantial number of hostages, ranging from Allied army intelligence officers to rebels against Nazism, to politicians from defeated countries or former allies. Among them was an Irishman from Co Roscommon.
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    The Past Remains

    Piotr Florczyk
    Visitors to Ukrainian Lviv, once Polish Lwów, once Austro-Hungarian Lemberg, will find that while cultures and peoples and languages can be overwritten by others, often violently, they may reappear years later, to stand as evidence to the fact that complete erasure is never possible.
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    Let’s Shop

    Caoilfhionn Ní Bheacháin
    An historical study of consumer culture across several centuries provides fascinating insights, but its desire to be value-free and non-judgmental leaves unresolved many important questions about the sometimes appalling human costs of global capitalism.
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    The Wicked Uncle

    Pádraig Murphy
    The Wicked Uncle
    Stalin learned from Lenin that ruthlessness in pursuit of what might appear an impossible goal could pay off. In addition, the Marxist inheritance deified the State, the bearer of the highest truth of historical progress, while within the state the party was assigned an absolute status.
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    The Ends of History

    Ciaran Brady
    The figure of the Polish-born historian Lewis Namier is at the centre of an entertaining and hugely informative new study of intellectuals and of practising historians ‑ not always a synonymous set ‑ in the post-1945 atmosphere of the Cold War.
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    Let It Go

    John Banville
    Let It Go
    To forget history, in particular the history of great crimes, can seem both an offence against the dead and an abdication of our duty to ensure that such crimes are not repeated. But if forgetting does an injustice to the past, remembering may well do one to the present.
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    Batting for the Other Side

    Jim Smyth
    The Establishment recruited its members from Eton, Harrow and Winchester and from the ancient universities, Oxford and Cambridge. Its high-flyers staffed the Foreign Office, royal commissions, boards of trustees, the BBC and MI6. And some spied for the Soviet Union.
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    Gypsy Dancer

    David Blake Knox
    Johann Trollman was a gifted athlete who floated like a butterfly through German boxing bouts in the 1930s. But he was a member of the Sinti community, operating in a sport the Nazis considered a forum for the display of essential Aryan values. He could not be allowed to win.
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    The Pope’s Divisions

    Michael Staunton
    By the early seventh century, the Roman church was the cultural mortar of western European society. It became the single institution that cut across political boundaries and ethnic divisions, collecting taxes, administering justice and enjoying the power of life and death over its members.
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    God and Reason

    Angelo Bottone
    In traditional accounts, Meister Eckhart has usually been presented as a mystical religious thinker. But a new study argues convincingly that this is a misinterpretation and that Eckhart is a ‘philosopher of Christianity’ who explains Christian beliefs through pure reason.
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    King Cotton

    Mary Jones
    Three elements - imperial expansion, expropriation, and slavery - became central to the forging of a new global economic order that eventually led to the emergence of capitalism. And the story of the development of cotton perfectly illustrates the stages of this process.
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    Muscular Christians

    Martin Henry
    The intellectualism of early Protestantism is hard to overestimate. It was bred in the universities and was a practice in which constant struggle, intellectual and spiritual, was central. A consequence was that it seemed to have little enough time for the unlettered.
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    The Long Conversation

    Ronan Sheehan
    We should neither heroise nor demonise the Romans, writes leading classicist Mary Beard, but we should take them seriously and not close down our long conversation with their legacy. But has that legacy been everywhere and always the same one?
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    The Polish Rising

    Tim Groenland
    In August 1944, Germany was retreating before the Red Army while in the west the liberation of France had begun. Polish patriots thought the time was right to launch an uprising in Warsaw, but the action proved to be a political and military disaster.
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    From War To War

    William Mulligan
    The celebrated German historian Heinrich August Winkler argues that it was not only the First World War but also the global economic depression after 1929 that were the twin events leading to so much catastrophe and destruction in European history in the twentieth century.
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    Terror Without Mercy

    Thomas McGrath
    Huge numbers of people died in the Nazi concentration camps but they were not where the majority of Jews perished. Rather they were an instrument of the regime’s desire for total repression and control which changed and adapted to suit the particular needs of the time.
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    Bad Blood

    Frank Freeman
    The ‘blood libel’, the notion that Jews were kidnapping and murdering Christian children for ritual purposes, was not created by poor and ignorant people but rather by rich and powerful ones, who found the persecution and murder of Jews sometimes suited their interests.
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    If You Liked This ...

    Matthew Parkinson-Bennett
    The eminent Milanese writer and publisher Roberto Calasso, chairman of Adelphi Edizioni, has an unusual recipe for commercial success: publish only books that you think are of the highest quality, and become known for publishing only books of the highest quality.
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    Red Star Over China

    Caroline Hurley
    Mao Zedong’s vision in the late 1940s was to replicate Soviet communism, whatever the cost for his people. The espousal of values of freedom and equality offered hope to war-weary citizens, but the new regime ran an intensely invasive and catastrophic tyranny from the start.
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    A Catastrophe Not Foreseen

    Pádraig Murphy
    Russia’s handling of its client Serbia in the run-up to the First World War was an object lesson in how not to do it. While it is a mistake to assign exclusive culpability for the outbreak of the war to any single state actor, equally none can be absolved of responsibility.
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    Bands of Brothers

    Marc Mulholland
    The Third International, or Comintern, maintained for many years a vast international organisation none of its left-wing rivals could match. When the purges came in the 1930s, however, its members suffered to a proportionately greater extent than any other category.
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    The Big Picture

    Sara Goek
    A transnational perspective can complement national history and breathe new life into insular debates. It has the potential to both open up new research areas and to expand our understanding of topics that might otherwise seem tired and overwrought.
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    Goodbye Schweinhund, Hallo Nachbar?

    Seán OHuiginn
    A number of recently published books give hope that the ‘fog of war’ which has blanketed the modern British view of Germany is beginning to lift, allowing a view of the nation in the perspective of its entire history and not just the disastrous twelve-year episode of the Third Reich.
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    A Bit of Help, Comrade?

    John Mulqueen
    Throughout the 1980s, two left-wing parties, the increasingly ambitious and successful SFWP, later WP, and the Communist Party of Ireland (CPI) competed for the favour and financial support of the Soviet bloc. But at the end of the decade it all came tumbling down.
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    Reason of Past History

    Brian Earls
    While sympathy for Poland, as the recurring victim of Tsarist repression, was widespread in nineteenth century Europe, in Ireland this assumed an intensity and duration which seems to have been unparalleled elsewhere.
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    'Them Poor Irish Lads' in Pennsylvania

    Breandán Mac Suibhne
    The late nineteenth and early twentieth century in America was a time of great confrontation between workers and bosses over wages, working conditions and unionisation. In these circumstances there grew up in the Pennsylvania coalfields a secret militant organisation with close ties to the Irish community.
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    Blood On Their Hands

    Linda Melvern
    Blood On Their Hands
    Inside a few months in 1994 up to a million people were massacred in Rwanda. There have since been trials of fugitives in Germany, Norway, Finland, Netherlands and Sweden, but in France, where a large number of senior suspects appears to be sitting comfortably, there is little activity.
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    Passing It On

    Connal Parr
    The historian and adult education champion RH Tawney, whose personal and work life were often stormy, may be seen to represent through his career the idea of the nobility of public service. He put the best of himself into his work of spreading understanding and culture.
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    Domestic Gothic

    Mary Rose Doorly
    Domestic Gothic
    In Alice Munro’s world, in which the grotesque frequently intrudes into the everyday, people often speak of great happiness and great tragedy in the same even voice, scarcely distinguishing between them and hardly ever varying the local tone of functional politeness.
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    White Terror

    Hugh Gough
    The repression that followed the defeat of the left-wing revolt known as the Paris Commune led to almost four times as many deaths in ten weeks as the revolutionary terror had achieved in the city in eighteen months. Pope Pius IX called the victims “men escaped from hell”.
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    A War Without End

    David Blake Knox
    Steam locomotive C5631 is proudly displayed in the museum at the Yasukuni Shrine in Japan, where prime ministers come to honour war criminals. There is no mention there of the hundreds of thousands of prisoners who died building the WWII railway on which it ran.
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    The Doubter

    Antony Tatlow
    Previous biographies have called almost everything about Bertolt Brecht, including his authorship of the works attributed to him, into doubt, while political changes have seemed to diminish his importance. But a new life, revealing a new Brecht, reasserts his importance.
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    Below Extinction’s Alp

    Seamus O’Mahony
    ‘The Hard Conversation’ is what happens when a doctor reveals to a patient the no longer avoidable truth. But perhaps society should also have a hard conversation about the limits of medical science and the desirability of providing not infinite life but a decent end of life.
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    "Becoming Freud" Review Issue 61

    Ross Skelton

    Ross Skelton responds to a review of Adam Phillips’s Becoming Freud by Seamus O’Mahony in Issue 61 of the drb.

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    The Great Extermination

    Patrick Duffy
    In 1810 Alexander Wilson watched, in Kentucky, a ‘prodigious’ procession of wild pigeons which took six hours to pass over him. The column, he estimated, had been 240 miles long. Just over a hundred years later the last passenger pigeon died in captivity, having never laid a fertile egg.
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    Enemies Within

    James Moran
    Irish names crop up with a fair degree of regularity among the promoters of xenophobia in contemporary Britain. A study of the interwar period demonstrates that Irish migrants were then the subject of similar unsound suspicions and fears of being ‘swamped’ by ‘scroungers’.
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    The World Turned Upside Down

    Hugh Gough
    The World Turned Upside Down
    Ideas certainly played an important role in the intellectual and political ferment that was the French Revolution, but it may be going too far to attempt to separate those ideas into distinct, contending political philosophies to which the main revolutionary figures can be attached.
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    The Last Chapter

    Enda O’Doherty
    Books and bookselling have been with us for a couple of thousand years, in which time they have progressed out of the libraries and into bookshops and homes, away from institutions and towards individuals. A great success story, but nearly all stories have an ending.
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    Unhappy Warrior

    Ivor Roberts
    Unhappy Warrior
    George Kennan formulated the key strategy of containment of Russia which guided the West through the Cold War but he became increasingly out of step with the interventionist instincts of successive US presidents. While he was greatly honoured, his desire for a more modest, inward-looking America did not find an echo among policy-makers.
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    Nobody’s Perfect

    Frank Freeman
    The Stoic philosopher Seneca offered useful advice on self-mastery, how to deal with the passage of time and the vanity of acquisitiveness. If he did not always live up to the highest ideals himself, it can at least be said in his defence that he lived in difficult times.
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    Let’s Forget

    Connal Parr
    A new book seems to favour the consigning of savage episodes in Spain’s twentieth century to oblivion, but there is always a good case to be made for remembering properly, not least that it poses a challenge to remembering badly, or falsifying, to keep conflict and bitterness alive.
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    Utopia Postponed

    Shane Barry
    If the financial relationship between the US and Europe after World War Two can be symbolised by the Marshall Plan pumping billions of dollars across the Atlantic to a ruined Europe, the flow of cash in the decade after 1918 was far from being one-way.
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    Living through Extermination

    James Wickham
    The concentration camps were extermination camps: when prisoners were not immediately murdered, they were subjected to a regime few could long survive. Yet this is not so unprecedented in human history. Eighteenth century slaves were not only routinely subjected to the most sadistic punishments but also worked to death.
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    Leaping into Darkness

    Cormac Ó Gráda
    After a decade of modest growth, in 1958 the Chinese authorities launched the Great Leap Forward, a reckless campaign aimed at greatly accelerating economic development. What resulted was, in terms of the number of its victims, the greatest famine ever.
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    Blowing Their Winnings

    Marc Mulholland
    There has never, in the classical sociological sense, been a more proletarian nation than Britain, and yet there has never been a time in British history when the working class really seemed to seriously challenge the established order and threaten to take power for itself.
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    Out on the Edge

    Terry Barry
    The people known as the Normans flourished in many parts of Europe in the early centuries of the second millennium AD. Their castles and fortifications are found as far west as Ireland, as far south as southern Italy and Sicily and as far east as Antioch.
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    The Tick of Reason

    Hugh Gough
    Voltaire offended the Calvinists of Geneva, ‘the Protestant Rome’, by criticising its austere lifestyle and setting up a theatre on its outskirts. A new book argues that the city eventually gave birth to a ‘reasonable Calvinism’ but we should be careful to remember the limits of any such apparent thaw in biblical fundamentalism.
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    Teaching the Natives a Lesson

    Patrick Bernhard
    By the end of the Ethiopian campaign in May 1936, the Royal Italian Air force had deployed more than three hundred tons of arsenic, phosgene and mustard gas. Fascist Italy was thus the first European state after World War I to make use of this weapon of mass destruction against people deemed racially inferior.
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    The Errand-Boys of Europe

    Pádraig Murphy
    The Errand-Boys of Europe
    There is a strong current of thought in Russia which wishes to see the country assert its complete independence from the West and ‘Western values’ and follow its own path as a great Eurasian power. Yet others believe engagement is still possible. What has not been helpful is a US disregard for Russian interests and susceptibilities which has been seen as amounting to an ‘empathy deficit disorder’.
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    Apples at World’s End

    Enda O’Doherty
    Czesław Miłosz lived through a century in which many thought they could take History by the scruff of the neck, for the aggrandisement of their own nation or the betterment of mankind. The notion at one stage half-appealed to Miłosz too, but he was to learn to be less ambitious.
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    The People’s Parties

    Brendan Sweeney
    If Sweden and Ireland are ever compared, it is almost always to the detriment of the latter and many on the left entertain the notion that we would be a lot better off if we could be more like the Nordics. Yet there are curious similarities between the dominant parties that have been in power for most of the modern history of both countries.
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    Liberal, but to a Degree

    Ultán Gillen
    Neoconservatives have argued that liberty and democracy tend not to exist in the absence of markets and free enterprise, and that they in turn are dependent on a vigorous middle class. But the middle class has not been, everywhere and in all circumstances, unambiguously wedded to democracy.
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    All in the Mix

    Michael Cronin
    All in the Mix
    Inspired by atomistic science, thinkers in early modern England, including John Locke, developed a conceptual framework whereby it is the mixture of parts, unregulated by any superior form, which constitutes both the natural world and the body politic.
    Wolfram Schmidgen explores this school of thought which challenged the dominant, Aristotelian world view in the early days of modernity.

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    Democracy’s Sphinx

    Andreas Hess
    Democracy’s Sphinx
    A new study of Alexis de Tocqueville emphasises his French intellectual background and makes the case that his classic analysis of American democracy may be understood as well, or even better, if it is considered primarily in terms of the old European society for which it was written.
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    Beastly to the Hun

    William Mulligan
    Beastly to the Hun
    A new study of the origins of the First World War provides an engaging and skilful account but is perhaps a little too close to the perceptions of the victors and a little too ready to see only malice emanating from Berlin.
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    There will be blood

    Hugh Gough
    There will be blood
    More than any other single figure, Maximilien Robespierre is identified with, and blamed for, the terror and bloodshed of France’s revolutionary years, yet the hostility of contemporaries, historians and political commentators is not wholly justified.
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    Dying for Dixie

    Enrico Dal Lago
    A new study examines the case of the Irish immigrants who found themselves in the southern states at the time of the American Civil War and who circumstances dictated would declare for the Confederacy.
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    Crimes and Punishment

    David Blake Knox
    Crimes and Punishment
    Germans have confronted the crimes of the Nazi regime with honesty and thoroughness. Important sections of Japanese society, however, prefer to forget or forgive the wartime actions of their army and deal with victim nations with defiance, not conciliation.
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    John Bull Knows Best

    Niall Gillespie
    John Bull Knows Best
    A new biography of British liberal imperialist Thomas Macaulay, who made his mark on India as a young man, does not challenge the view that the liberalism he espoused was often only skin deep while the imperialism was all too real and damaging to those on the receiving end.
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    Total War

    Liam Hennessy
    In the brutal conduct of its invasion of the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany revealed its true nature fully for the first time as all political, legal or moral scruples were cast aside.
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    Answering Luther

    John McCafferty
    A superb and beautifully written study of the sixteenth century Council of Trent, when the Catholic church gathered to consider its response to Protestantism, constitutes a painless crash course on the Europe of the time.
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    Varieties of Modernity

    Paul Gillespie
    Relations between capitalism and the state have been crucial in Europe. Both, accommodating to claim-making from civil society, gave this model a distinctive concern with social solidarity.
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    Restless Eric

    John Mulqueen
    Eric Hobsbawm, perhaps the most respected of twentieth century historians, still manages to impress from beyond the grave with a wide-ranging tour of culture and society.
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    Strong Hand, Beloved Leader

    Maurice Earls

    A hoard of letters written by Germans to Hitler show a people keen to abdicate their responsibility and infantilise themselves, but they do not indicate any great enthusiasm for either Nazi ideology or territorial aggression.

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    Getting By

    Sean OHuiginn
    Jacques Rivière claimed that great writers could not be great moral characters, because their necessarily self-centred natures made them poorly equipped for devotion and sacrifice, and since they had to distance themselves from their feelings in order to see them, these were never as genuine as with other people. Jean Guéhenno, a writer free of any taint of collaboration, wrote in his diary in 1940: “The species of the man of letters is not one of the greatest human species. Incapable of surviving for long in hiding, he would sell his soul to see his name in print.”
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