Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change, 1970-2000

Clair Wills writes:

It is the baffling, ‘fast-forward’ nature of these changes that Roy Foster seeks to capture in this pacey narrative, which brings his 1988 history, Modern Ireland 1600-1972, up to date. Rather than offer a straightforward narrative account, Foster tracks the transformation of contemporary Ireland in a series of essays, originally given as the Wiles Lectures in Belfast in 2004. The format allows him to range beyond a dutiful treatment of politics and the economy to discuss the mass media, the Church, social life and developments in music and literature. In each area Foster’s attention is caught by the speed with which the country has put its mind to catching up with – or outstripping – the rest of the West:

‘Much as the sheer lack of accumulated industrial encumbrance enabled the Irish economy to leapfrog into the microelectronic age, the sudden embrace of revised moral codes allowed the new Irish laws on homosexuality to become, at a stroke, more liberal than those in Britain. Perhaps because so much of the Irish stereotype (and the tourist brand-image) conjures up an unchanging land where time stands still, the Irish faculty for changing practices or expectations with bewildering rapidity has been underestimated.’

(LRB 3 July 2008)

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