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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 November 2020
The publication in 1908 of The making of Ireland and its undoing, 1200–1600 by the London-based Irish historian, Alice Stopford Green, provoked a controversy that reveals much about the deepening political tensions at the heart of historical practice in the decade before 1916. Stopford Green took a deliberately controversial approach to the rewriting of medieval Ireland that triggered a bombardment of both positive and negative reactions. Supporters of Irish home rule applauded the work for its innovative analysis and contemporary relevance. But the book elicited a flurry of exasperation from a united front of ‘history men’, who dismissed Stopford Green and her work as ‘political’ and largely fictitious. Anticipating the reaction from a profession that was predominantly sympathetic to a unionist interpretation, Stopford Green had a well-prepared plan that harnessed both her gender and her transnational networks of influence to maximise the dissemination of her radical reimagining of the late medieval Gaelic world. By understanding these deeper strategies of defiance, Alice Stopford Green's history might be reclaimed as a key intervention in the structuring of both Ireland's national tradition and collective consciousness in preparation for independence.
1 Freeman's Journal, 14 Dec. 1908.
2 The Freeman's Journal report stated that the word ‘fake history’ had been used by Stopford Green, but in her annotated copy of the article she has crossed out ‘fake’ and written ‘false’. The error might be attributed to Stopford Green's slightly arthritic script: the ‘ls’ of false could be easily mistaken for a ‘k’ (N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 10,429/4).
3 Freeman's Journal, 14 Dec. 1908.
6 Foster, R. F., Paddy and Mr Punch: connections in Irish and English history (London, 1993), p. 100Google Scholar.
7 Súilleabháin, Donncha Ó, Conradh na Gaelige i Londain, 1894–1917 (Dublin, 1989)Google Scholar; Leerssen, Joep, Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael: studies in the idea of Irish nationality, its development and literary expression prior to the nineteenth century (Cork, 1996)Google Scholar; McMahon, T. G., Grand opportunity: the Gaelic revival and Irish society, 1893–1910 (Syracuse, 2008)Google Scholar.
8 The Times, 17 Dec. 1908; Freeman's Journal, 17 Dec. 1908.
9 Peter Brundage, The people's historian: John Richard Green and the writing of history in Victorian England (Westport, CT, 1994).
10 Examples of correspondence (multiple dates) include: Lord Acton to Stopford Green (N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 15,073/2); Stopford Green to Acton (Cambridge University Library, Add. MS 8119(2)/G163–G181); Edward Augustus Freeman and Eleanor Freeman to Stopford Green (N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 15,077/4); Bryce to Stopford Green (ibid., 15,070 (1–4)); Stopford Green to Bryce (Bodl., MSS Bryce 72, 216); Lecky to Stopford Green (N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 15,085); Creighton to Stopford Green (ibid., MS 15,117); F. York Powell to Stopford Green (ibid., MS 15,101/1-2); J. J. Jusserand to Stopford Green (ibid., 15,081/5; Jesus College, Oxford, PP Green 20); Stopford Green to Jusserand (Archives Diplomatiques (Fonds Nominatifs), PA-AP 93 Jusserand); Pirenne to Stopford Green (N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, 15100-01).
11 Doris S. Goldstein, ‘The origins and early years of the English Historical Review’ in E.H.R., ci, no. 398 (Jan. 1986), pp 6–19.
12 Testimonials for Alice Stopford Green (N.L.I., MS 43,326/1–11).
13 She was a co-author on A short geography of the British islands (London, 1879) and undertook much editorial work and wrote a preface to The conquest of England (London, 1883). She edited and wrote prefaces to three volumes of collected essays by J. R. Green: Oxford studies (London, 1901); Stray studies (London, 1903); Historical studies (London, 1904). Her most significant contribution to her husband's legacy was her various revisions to A short history of the English people, including a biographical introduction to the second edition (London, 1888) and the lavishly illustrated four-volume edition (London, 1893–4) edited with Kate Norgate. A third edition (London, 1916) contained a lengthy 200-page epilogue by Stopford Green updating the narrative to 1914. For analysis of Stopford Green's interventions in the work of her husband, see Elise Garritzen, ‘Framing and reframing meanings in history books: the original and posthumous paratexts in J. R. Green's Short history of the English people’ in History of Humanities, iii, no. 1 (Mar. 2018), pp 177–97.
14 See Caoilfhionn Ní Bheacháin and Angus Mitchell, ‘Alice Stopford Green and Vernon Lee: salon culture and intellectual exchange’ in Journal of Victorian Culture, xxv, no. 1 (Jan. 2020), pp 77–94.
15 The Times, 19 Dec. 1911.
16 G. K. Peatling, British opinion and Irish self-government, 1896–1925: from unionism to liberal commonwealth (Dublin, 2001), p. 64.
17 Mary O'Dowd, ‘From Morgan to MacCurtain: women historians in Ireland from the 1790s to the 1990s’ in Maryann Gialanella Valiulis and Mary O'Dowd (eds), Women and Irish history: essays in honour of Margaret MacCurtain (Dublin, 1997), p. 49.
18 Sandra Holton, ‘Gender difference, national identity and professing history: the case of Alice Stopford Green’ in History Workshop Journal, liii, no. 1 (spring 2002), pp 119–27.
19 Nadia Clare Smith, A ‘manly study’?: Irish women historians, 1868–1949 (London, 2006), pp 43, 59.
20 Helen Kingstone, ‘Feminism, nationalism, separatism?: The case of Alice Stopford Green’ in Journal of Victorian Culture, xix, no. 4 (2014), pp 442–56.
21 Ian McBride, ‘The shadow of the gunman: Irish historians and the IRA’ in Journal of Contemporary History, xlvi, no. 3 (July 2011), p. 691.
22 Lucy McDiarmid, The Irish art of controversy (Dublin, 2005).
23 Alice Stopford Green to Mr Macmillan, 14 Feb. 1908 (B.L., Macmillan archive, MS 55,059, f. 195).
24 Alice Stopford Green to Mr Macmillan, 1 July 1908, (B.L., Macmillan archive, MS 55,059, f. 204).
25 Elizabeth James (ed.), Macmillan: a publishing history (New York, 2002).
26 Alice Stopford Green to Mr Macmillan, 9 Feb. 1908 (B.L., Macmillan archive, MS 55,059, ff 189-91).
27 The arrangement was explained in an undated internal note (B.L., Macmillan archive, MS 55,060, f. 135) generated when Stopford Green was in the process of negotiating with Maunsel & Co. to publish a new edition. The note stated that 1,300 copies of the cheaper version of the book had been supplied to her for distribution among Gaelic League members. The first edition was reprinted in July and September 1908, and January and February 1909.
28 Alice Stopford Green to Mr Macmillan, 14 Feb. 1908 (B.L., Macmillan archive, 55,059, f. 195).
29 Alice Stopford Green to R. I. Best, 25 Apr. 1908, (N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green additional papers, MS 15,114/12).
30 Alice Stopford Green to Mr Macmillan, 12 Feb. 1908 (B.L., Macmillan archive, MS 55,059, f. 193).
31 Alice Stopford Green to Mr Macmillan, 1 July 1908 (B.L., Macmillan archive, MS 55,059, f. 203).
32 Her choice of the word ‘undoing’ anticipated Sigmund Freud's 1909 essay ‘Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis’ which introduced the idea of ‘undoing’ into psychoanalytical theory (The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, ed. James Strachey et al. (24 vols, London, 1953–74), x, 155–249). In psychoanalysis, one definition of ‘undoing’ is the unconscious attempt to un-do an action or thought that has resulted in either guilt or anxiety. But the use of both ‘making’ and ‘undoing’ in the title was decided quite late on. In a letter to her publisher of 12 Feb. 1908 (B.L., Macmillan archive, MS 55,059, f. 193), Stopford Green mentioned that she was intending titling the book ‘The Irish Civilisation’.
33 Alice Stopford Green, The making of Ireland and its undoing (London, 1908), p. 353.
35 Guy Beiner, Forgetful remembrance: social forgetting and vernacular historiography of a rebellion in Ulster (Oxford, 2018).
36 Smith, A “manly study”?: Irish women historians, 1868–1949, pp 44–5.
37 Seán Ó Lúing, Kuno Meyer, 1858–1919 (Dublin, 1991), pp 25–40.
38 Lujo Brentano, On the history and development of gilds and the origin of trade-unions (London, 1870).
39 Stopford Green, The making of Ireland and its undoing, p. 97.
45 Stopford Green's public disagreement with Mahaffy opened in the spring of 1907. See Freeman's Journal, 25 Feb. 1907; Irish Times, 1 Mar. 1907.
46 Stopford Green, The making of Ireland and its undoing, p. 494.
47 The Peasant, 11 July 1908.
48 Irish Homestead, 11 July 1908, p. 1.
49 The Leader, 1 Aug. 1908, pp 375–7.
50 Manchester Guardian, 21 July 1908.
51 The Athenaeum, 1 Aug. 1908, p. 117.
52 The Harp, ii, no. 7 (Aug. 1909), p. 1. See Alice Stopford Green to James Connolly, 28 Sept. 1909 in Between comrades: James Connolly letters and correspondence, 1889–1916, ed. Donal Nevin (Dublin, 2007), p. 409.
53 David Lloyd, Irish times: temporalities of modernity (Dublin, 2008), p. 108.
54 Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh, ‘James Connolly and the writing of Labour in Irish History (1910)’ in Saothar, xxvii (2002), pp 103–08.
55 Freeman's Journal letter from Roger Casement, 11 Dec. 1908 and Lady Gilbert, 17 Dec. 1908; review by F. H. Swinny in Positivist Review, 1 Dec. 1908, pp 274–6. My thanks to Dr Matthew Wilson for drawing my attention to this review.
56 The mysterious Mary H.: a selection of writings by Mary Hayden, 1862–1942, intro. Conan Kennedy (Killala, 2013), pp 43–52.
57 Freeman's Journal, 12 Oct. 1908.
58 For example, E. J. Riordain on behalf of the Cork Industrial Development Association in Southern Star, 13 June 1908; Thomas Grogan in Westmeath Independent, 5 Sept. 1908.
59 Freeman's Journal, 22 Dec. 1908.
60 Alice Stopford Green to Oliver Wendell Holmes, 6 June 1908 (N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 11,487/1). See, Richard Cosgrove, ‘An Irish American friendship: the justice and the nationalist historian’ in Éire-Ireland, xxi, no. 4 (winter 1986), pp 11–21.
61 Alice Stopford Green to Oliver Wendell Holmes, 6 June 1908 (N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 11,487/1).
62 Alice Stopford Green to Oliver Wendell Holmes, 9 Aug. 1908 (N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 11,487/1).
63 Alice Stopford Green to Winston Churchill, 12 Sept. 1908 (Churchill College Cambridge, Chartwell papers, CHAR 1/75/69).
64 James Bryce to Alice Stopford Green, 31 Oct. 1908 (N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 15,070/2).
65 J. J. Jusserand to Alice Stopford Green, 12 Jan. 1909 (N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green additional papers, MS 15081/5).
66 Arthur Brisbane to Alice Stopford Green, 29 May 1908 (N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green additional papers, MS 15073/11).
67 Alice Stopford Green to Theodore Roosevelt (typescript copy), n.d. (N.L.I., Correspondence of Alice Stopford Green, MS 43,260/21).
68 G. M. Trevelyan to Alice Stopford Green, 12 July 1908 (N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 10457/10/11).
69 Quarterly Review, Jan. 1909, pp 254–75. The other works reviewed were M. J. Bonn, Die englische Kolonisation in Irland (2 vols, Berlin, 1906); G. B. O'Connor, Elizabethan Ireland (Dublin, 1906); Ireland under Elizabeth, being a portion of the ‘History of Catholic Ireland’ by Don Philip O'Sullivan Bear, trans. Matthew J. Byrne (Dublin, 1903).
70 Quarterly Review, Jan. 1909, p. 256.
74 A. Suresh Canagarajah, A geopolitics of academic writing (Pittsburgh, 2002), p. 8.
75 Scottish Historical Review, vi, no. 22 (Jan. 1909), pp 194–8.
77 E.H.R., xxiv, no. 93 (Jan. 1909), pp 129–35. Stopford Green's annotated copy is available in N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 10,429/4.
78 American Historical Review, xiv, no. 2 (Jan. 1909), pp 341–2.
79 Celtic Review, v, no. 19 (Jan 1909), pp 283–6. A response to Watson by Alfred Nutt appeared in ibid., v, no. 20 (Apr. 1909), pp 381–6.
80 Irish Church Quarterly, ii, no. 6 (Apr. 1909), pp 157–9.
82 N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 10,435/1/1 contains the typescript of a lecture delivered to the Irish Literary Society in November 1908. A transcript appeared in editions of The Irish Nation and the Peasant between 5 Oct. 1908 and 9 Jan. 1909 (see N.L.I., MS 10,429/4).
83 Alice Stopford Green to Mr Macmillan, 1 Jan. 1909 (B.L., Macmillan archive, MS 55,060, f. 1).
84 Alice Stopford Green to Mr Macmillan, 5 Feb. 1909 (B.L., Macmillan archive, MS 55,060, f. 2).
85 Nineteenth Century, Mar. 1909, pp 480–94; later republished in The old Irish world (Dublin, 1912).
86 Nineteenth Century, Mar. 1909, p. 480.
87 For a sixteen-page handwritten response from Dunlop to Stopford Green's review see: N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 10,429/4.
88 Scottish Historical Review, vi, no. 23 (Apr. 1909), p. 320.
89 Alice Stopford Green, Loyalty and disloyalty: what it means in Ireland (Dublin, 1918); eadem, Ourselves alone in Ulster (Dublin, 1918); eadem, The government of Ireland (London, 1921).
90 The 1909 second edition was reprinted in 1913. In 1919 Maunsel & Co. printed a third edition. Much of Stopford Green's economic argument for the fifteenth century was based upon her work in the Public Record Office on manuscript sources destroyed on 30 June 1922.
91 The making of Ireland and its undoing (2nd ed.), p. xv. Stopford Green's preface was also published in Irish Times, 18 Dec. 1909.
92 Irish Times, 4 May 1910.
94 Alice Stopford Green, Irish nationality (London, 1911) was one of only six works written by women to feature in the 138 titles in the series. A revised edition of the book appeared in 1929, with one extra last page; an Irish edition followed: Meanma Gaedhal, trans. Tomás De Nhial (Baile Átha Cliath, 1938).
95 She gave the lecture first to the students of the National Literary Society in the Gaelic Hall in Rutland Street. In the second week in December she gave the lecture to the Irish Society in Sheffield and the United Irish League in Manchester. The essay was later published as the opening to The old Irish world (Dublin, 1912).
96 In 1909 Curtis attended the School of Irish Learning and did a course in Old and Middle Irish. They were both signatories of a letter to the Irish Times, 31 May 1917, in support of Æ's ‘Thoughts for a convention’. Within the domain of Irish medieval history, Curtis is seen as part of a lineage of medieval historians that stretched across the twentieth century. He would be followed as Lecky professor by A. J. Otway-Ruthven and James Lydon. See Peter Crooks (ed.), Government, war and society in medieval Ireland: essays by Edmund Curtis, A. J. Otway-Ruthven and James Lydon (Dublin, 2008). Three letters from Curtis to Stopford Green, written between 1909 and 1925, survive in N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, 10,457/3.
97 Goddard H. Orpen Ireland under the Normans, 1169–1333 (4 vols, Oxford, 1911–20).
98 Edmund Curtis, ‘Gael and Norman in Irish history’ in Irish Review, i, no. 9 (Nov. 1911), pp 422–9.
99 Edmund Curtis, A history of medieval Ireland from 1110 to 1513 (Dublin, 1923). Stopford Green's review appeared in Manchester Guardian, 4 Jan. 1924.
100 Founded in 1906 to support the teaching, study and enjoyment of history in schools and universities, the Historical Association was established to complement the Royal Historical Society. Past presidents include Herbert Butterfield, G. P. Gooch and G. M. Trevelyan. For a brief résumé of Stopford Green's tenure as president see Donald Read, ‘A parade of past presidents, 1906–82’ in The Historian, no. 91 (autumn 2006), p. 13.
101 ‘Report of the council: session, 1928–1929’ in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, xiii (1930), p. 241.
102 The world upturning: Elsie Henry's Irish wartime diaries, 1913–1919, ed. Clara Cullen (Dublin, 2013).
103 Other committee members included Erskine and Molly Childers, Eoin MacNeill, Piaras Béaslaí, Art Ó Cleirigh, Maire Ní Chomathun, Timothy Corcoran, T. A. Findlay, Áine Ceannt, Sean Milroy and T. F. Ó Raithile. This initiative fed into a strategic reorganisation of Gaelic space undertaken in preparation for independence, analysed by Aidan Beatty, ‘The Gaelic League and the spatial logics of Irish nationalism’ in I.H.S., xliii, no. 163 (May 2019), pp 55–72; Brian Ó Conchubhair, ‘The culture war: the Gaelic League and Irish-Ireland’ in Thomas Bartlett (ed.), The Cambridge history of Ireland, iv: 1880–present (Cambridge, 2018), pp 196–220.
104 Stopford Green commissioned the making of a casket from the designer Mia Cranwill to hold a vellum scroll with the names of those who sat in the first senate. This fine example of the Irish Arts and Crafts movement presently resides in the Royal Irish Academy. On the dedication of the casket to the Seanad on 26 November 1924, see Donal O'Sullivan, The Irish Free State and its senate (London, 1940), pp 157–160.
105 Senia Pašeta, Irish nationalist women, 1900–1918 (Cambridge, 2013), p. 216.
106 See F. X. Martin, The Howth gun-running, 1914 (Dublin, 1964), p. 23.
107 Seanad Éireann deb., i, 996–7 (19 Apr. 1923), 2201–2203 (8 Aug. 1923).
108 Thomas Bourke, ‘Nationalism and the Royal Irish Academy, 1916–1923’ in Studies, lxxv, no. 298 (summer 1986), pp 196–208.
109 See N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 10,428 for a collection of drafts of lectures delivered.
110 See N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 10,431 for a manuscript draft of the lecture.
111 See reviews of History of the Irish state to 1014, 22 Mar. 1925–17 July 1926 (N.L.I., Alice Stopford Green papers, MS 10,429/5).
112 See Shane Nagle, Histories of nationalism in Ireland and Germany: a comparative study from 1800 to 1932 (London, 2017).
113 Irish Times, 17 Feb. 1928.
114 Angus Mitchell, ‘The Stopfords of Blackwater house: Alice Stopford Green's family circle’ in Ríocht na Midhe, xxx (2019), pp 176–212.
115 Edmund Curtis ‘Irish history and its popular versions’ in Irish Rosary, xxix, no. 5 (May 1925), pp 321–9.
116 D. W. Hayton, ‘The laboratory of “scientific history”: T. W. Moody and R. D. Edwards at the Institute of Historical Research’ in I.H.S., xli, no. 159 (May 2017), pp 41–57; Kevin Whelan, ‘The revisionist debate in Ireland’ in boundary 2, xxxi, no.1 (Mar. 2004), pp 179–205; John Regan, Myth and the Irish state (Sallins, 2013).
117 See Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh, ‘Objective historians, irrational Fenians and the bewildered herd: revisionist myth and the Irish Revolution’ in Irish Studies Review, xxviii, no. 2 (2020), pp 204–34.
118 R. B. McDowell, Alice Stopford Green: a passionate historian (Dublin, 1967). He also co-authored Mahaffy: a biography of an Anglo-Irishman (London, 1971) with W. B. Stanford.
119 León Ó Broin, Protestant nationalists in revolutionary Ireland: the Stopford connection (Dublin, 1985).
120 Ciaran Brady (ed.), Interpreting Irish history: the debate on historical revisionism (Dublin, 1994).
121 Alvin Jackson in his essay on ‘Unionist history’ referred to ‘the political commitment of historians like Eoin MacNeill and Alice Stopford Green’ (ibid., p. 255); Steven Ellis, ‘Nationalist historiography and the English and Gaelic worlds in the late middle ages’ in ibid., p. 173, note 47.
122 R. F. Foster, ‘History and the Irish question’ in Brady (ed.), Interpreting Irish history, pp 122–45; first published in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, fifth series, xxx (1983), pp 169–92. Foster made a few brief references to Stopford Green in Vivid faces: the revolutionary generation in Ireland, 1890–1923 (London, 2014).
123 R. F. Foster, ‘History and the Irish question’, p. 138.
124 Steven Ellis, ‘Nationalist historiography and the English and Gaelic worlds in the late middle ages’, pp 161–80; first published in I.H.S., xxv, no. 97 (May 1986), pp 1–18.
125 On Curtis, see James Lydon, ‘Historical revisit: Edmund Curtis, A history of medieval Ireland (1923, 1938)’ in I.H.S., xxxi, no. 124 (Nov. 1999), pp 535–46.
126 Brian P. Murphy, ‘The canon of Irish cultural history: some questions concerning Roy Foster's Modern Ireland’ in Studies, lxxxii, no. 326 (summer 1993), pp 171–84, also published in Brady (ed.), Interpreting Irish history, pp 222–33. The thread of this critique is continued in ‘The wind that shakes the barley: reflections on the writing of Irish history in the period of the Easter Rising and the Irish War of Independence’ in Ruán O'Donnell (ed.), The impact of the 1916 Rising: among the nations (Dublin, 2008), pp 200–20.
127 Bonnie G. Smith, The gender of history: men, women, and historical practice (Cambridge, 1998), p. 196 uses the term ‘lusty amateur’ to describe Stopford Green. Was this a consequence of Smith's dependence upon McDowell's biography, subtitled ‘a passionate historian’? The term ‘siren of nationalism’ appears in Michael Bentley, ‘Shape and pattern in British historical writing, 1815–1945’ in Stuart Macintyre, Juan Maiguashca, and Attila Pók (eds), The Oxford history of historical writing, iv: 1800–1945 (Oxford, 2011), p. 217.
128 See Joan Thirsk, ‘The history women’ in Mary O'Dowd and Sabine Wichert (eds), Chattel, servant or citizen: women's status in church, state and society (Belfast, 1995), p. 1; Smith, The gender of history, pp 172–3; Kingstone, ‘Feminism, nationalism, separatism?’, pp 442–56.
129 Stopford Green, The old Irish world, p. 9.
130 Ciaran idem, ‘“Constructive and instrumental”: the dilemma of Ireland's first “new historians”’ in idem (ed.), Interpreting Irish history, p. 30.
134 Dolan, Anne and Murphy, William, Michael Collins: the man and the revolution (Cork, 2018), pp 174–5Google Scholar.
135 Zinn, Howard, Failure to quit: reflections of an optimistic historian (Cambridge, 1993), p. 30Google Scholar.
136 Holton, Gender difference, p. 125.
137 Hutchinson, John, ‘Irish nationalism’ in Boyce, D. G. and O'Day, Alan (eds), Modern Irish history: revisionism and the revisionist controversy (London, 1996), p. 101Google Scholar.
138 See Duffy, P. J., Edwards, David and Fitzpatrick, Elizabeth (eds), Gaelic Ireland c.1250–c.1650: land, lordship and settlement (Dublin, 2001)Google Scholar; Eve Campbell, Elizabeth Fitzpatrick and Audrey Horning, Becoming and belonging in Ireland AD c.1200–1600: essays in identity and cultural practice (Cork, 2018).
139 My thanks to Nollaig Mac Congáil for providing me with a steady flow of references to Alice Stopford Green and to Caoilfionn Ní Bheacháin for reading through earlier drafts. This essay is dedicated to the memory of Dr Jeremy Catto (1939–2018), who first referred me to The making of Ireland and its undoing during a trip to Salamanca.
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