The subject of this book is that stretch of water generally called ‘The Irish Sea’ and its shores, considered as a place of exchange and meeting, as a zone of interaction, as a fact of geography and history that precedes mere nations.
Question: We are accustomed to the idea of a ‘Mediterranean culture’, then why not to a culture and history of our own inland sea?
Answer: Because the idea of nationality gets in the way.
This book has no single historical focus but a central question: what is it to live and die along these shores?
The reasons why the sea in question is called ‘Irish’ is itself a question, when it might just as well have been called the ‘Manx Sea’ or the ‘Welsh Sea’, (and indeed, it was so called by the Manx and the Welsh. But we are writing in English.) Maybe this is because it was so named by Greenwich cartographers who were mindful of the old couplet:
He who would England win
must with Ireland begin.
How much of Irish history has grown out of that perception?
This Irish Sea acts as a kind of inland waterway, linking many parts, extended further inland by navigable rivers and canals. These linkages form the vertebrae of this book. They constitute a large part of the experience of being ‘British’ ( whatever that might have been, is or may be), and largely and consequently, that of being ‘Irish’ ‘Scottish’, ‘Welsh’ etc.. ‘England’, it seems, is largely defined as against ‘the Continent’ than against the other parts of the Islands, of which most English people are ignorant or neglectful. Though when you speak to them they almost always say something like — ‘but my grandfather was Scottish’ as if that were some kind of excuse or explanation.
And now it seems that there is a good case for claiming a North Sea culture. Such a way of thinking—by way of shorelines—precedes the nations that squat along the shores.
The book challenges many notions of identity but in essence encourages a look at the coastlines around the Irish Sea from the perspective of the sea and its coast rather than national identity.
|Publication Data||Published December 2009, paperback, 220pp, 40 illustrations|
A book around the Irish Sea: history without nations
- ISBN: 978 1 905569 36 6
- Author(s): David Brett
- Availability: In Stock