"The drb sustains a level of commentary on Irish and international matters that no other journal in Ireland and few elsewhere can reach. It deserves all the support that can be given it." X
Space to Think, a new book celebrating ten years of the Dublin Review of Books More Information 

The price of everything

William Petty was one of the precursors of modern quantitative economics. He anticipated the problem of valuing human life, which is central to modern cost benefit analysis, assessing the lives of the Irish who were killed in Cromwell’s campaigns to be worth about £15 each.
More

Within and Without

In 1579 Dublin’s pig-warden is Barnaby Rathe, bellman, master and beadle of the beggars. His main problem is less the escaped pigs who must be rounded up or the beggars than the slippery citizens who won't pay him for his labours. Peter Sirr on Dublin's walls.
More

And back to England?

The words ‘England’ or ‘English’ appear 356 times in Shakespeare’s pre-Jacobean plays but only thirty-nine times after Scotland’s King James took power in London. Conversely, ‘Britain’ appears only twice in the Elizabethan plays but twenty-nine times in those written under James.
More

Small Potatoes and Civil War

Acceptance or rejection of the Anglo-Irish Treaty was immaterial to tackling the problems facing independent Ireland. The ensuing Civil War is so iconic and so constantly referenced because our political leaders insisted it was of immense importance. But really it was not.
More

Is it time?

When the destructive tendencies of global capitalism seem beyond democratic control and truth is dismissed as ideology propagated by ‘experts’, when environmental degradation has got beyond the point of no return, then perhaps it’s time for the clever animals who invented knowledge to realise they have to die.
More

Orwell’s glimmer, Winston’s arithmetic

Back in 2003, Margaret Atwood suggested that the dating of the Appendix on Newspeak in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four clearly indicated that the message of the book was not entirely pessimistic. But was she the first to come to this conclusion?
More

The Other Sort

Séamus Lillis was moved to apply for a job in the Northern Ireland civil service back in the 1960s by the generous interview expenses on offer. He was surprised to get the position, and surprised again when, one Friday, a superior with whom he was having lunch said: ‘I’ve ordered a steak for you.’
More

Who do you think you are?

Primo Levi’s ‘If This is a Man’, published in 1947, and his much later ‘The Drowned and the Saved’ are for many the most compelling literary treatments of the Holocaust. Yet some people, particularly in America, felt that a person whose Jewish identity seemed so off-centre was not a suitable standardbearer.
More

A giant leap for whom?

It is not necessarily the case that progress in science or technology will be accompanied by equivalent advances in civilisation. In the decade when an age-old dream of mankind, long thought impossible, was finally being realised, white men still refused to drink their beer from the same glasses as Afro-Caribbeans or Asians in an English pub.
More

Wisdom Builds Itself a House

Sitting at a laptop, for all that our curious fingers flit across cyberspace, confines us to our private space. We need the opportunity to wander and discover and be let loose among the materiality of paper and physical buildings. Peter Sirr writes on libraries, theft and the clutches of Hades.
More

On not being reached

It is more than twenty years since the mobile phone first burst - or brrred – its way into our lives. Initially, in Dublin at any rate, it was not regarded as a marvel. Rather it was customary for everyone else in the pub to stare coldly at the recipient of the call, who if he had any decency would blush and hurry towards the exit.
More

Elephant? What elephant?

Jeremy Corbyn does not recognise the nature of the Brexit national division, nor does he see that it cannot be understood in the language of class division. This failure is hardly surprising, as he comes from a tradition where pretty much everything can be explained in that language.
More

What’s your problem?

There are characters, George Eliot wrote, who continually create collisions for themselves in dramas of their own imagination which no one is prepared to act with them: ‘their susceptibilities will clash against objects that remain innocently quiet.’ It’s called unrequited love.
More

Shop Girls, High and Low

The arrival of the department store at the end of the nineteenth century gave birth to a new social actor, the shop girl specialising in sales. Exploitation, of more than one kind, remained, but here was a figure with more pride and independence than the traditionally heavily oppressed grocery employee.
More

First catch your hare

Strangely bored on a weekend in the country in the late 1940s with an old lover rediscovered, Elizabeth David’s thoughts turned to apricots and olives, lemons, oil and almonds. In grey, rainy, puritanical England one didn’t mention such things. Hell, they were dirty words!
More

War is peace, freedom is slavery ... left is right?

Seventy years ago Fred Warburg published 'Nineteen Eighty-four', which he saw as a deliberate attack on socialism and socialist parties generally and 'worth a cool million votes to the Conservative Party'. He can't have known George Orwell all that well.
More

The French Are Different

In Ireland we like to have a good bunch of Independents, on top of the usual political parties, to choose from. In France they like having a huge variety of parties, and behind them any number of political clubs, currents, think tanks and factions. It’s the ideas, you see: they’re mad for the ideas.
More

The Politics of Good Intentions

The ‘shared community’ that Alliance champions in Northern Ireland is unlikely to come into being, but the existence of divisions provides a fertile ground for a politics of good intentions that, while it cannot alter fundamental political differences, provides the basis for a third form of identity politics.
More

The Costs of Technology

A tradesman’s demand for a fee that seemed exorbitant led ‘The Irish Penny Magazine’ back in 1840 to muse on the relative value of slaves in America and the children of the poor in Ireland.
More

LP Curtis Jnr: 1932-2019

Lewis Perry Curtis, one of the leading twentieth century historians of modern Ireland, taught at Princeton, Berkeley and Brown universities and published important books on land reform, landlordism and eviction and racial stereotyping of the Irish, both in Britain and the United States.
More