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The Irish

A Photohistory

Sean Sexton, Christine Kinealy

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An enthralling visual history, not just for Irish families worldwide, but for the people of every nation: a photohistorian’s treasure trove


The first Irish photographs date from 1840, a year after the discovery of the photographic process. In the century that followed, Ireland was to know tragedy and triumph, bitter struggle and agonized compromise. The Great Famine was to kill over a million Irish between 1846 and 1851, and force an even greater number to flee their homeland. In the following decades, Irish political life was dominated by the struggle for land rights, for Home Rule, and for independence. As that story unfolds, we see inspirational leaders and impatient rebels, and their campaigns of persuasion and violence. We glimpse too the injustices that inspired them, above all the mass eviction of peasants from their homes by the law.

Yet these images, reproduced here in colour and covering the first century of Ireland in the era of photography, do much more than tell a gripping political story. They give an insight into a people, a landscape, and a lost way of life. They evoke the grandeur, elegance and complacency of life in the Big House, home and symbol of the Anglo-Irish elite. They reveal the labour of rural survival: cutting peat, fishing, gathering seaweed and tilling the soil, against the magnificence of the often harsh Irish landscape. And they show the transforming impact of modernity, as industry and urban expansion brought Ireland into a new era.

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'Exceptional … a riveting visual chronicle, admirably unsentimental and richly informative'
Irish Times

'Riveting … these powerful images give an extraordinary insight into a people, a landscape, and a lost way of life'
Irish Tatler

'A book that you will return to again and again'
Books Ireland

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback with flaps

Edition Type: Compact edition

Size: 21.5 x 20.5 cm

Extent: 224 pp

Publication date: 4 March 2013

ISBN: 9780500290798

About the Author

Sean Sexton is an Irish-born photographic collector and author of The Irish: A Photohistory. He has been collecting historic photographs of Ireland for 40 years. His passion and expertise have made him a world leader in the field.

Christine Kinealy is an Irish historian and author of over a dozen books on Irish history. She is currently Professor of History at Caspersen Graduate School, Drew University, New Jersey, in the United States.