Judging Redmond and Carson
Published by Royal Irish Academy
Number of pages: 304
John Redmond and Edward Carson remain two of the biggest names in modern Irish history. At the peak of their careers as senior members of the British parliament, they were locked together in combat over Home Rule. Divided by the union with Britain, they had surprisingly much in common. Contemporaries saw them together, and routinely judged them in comparative contexts. But with the partition of Ireland and independence, they have been disconnected, viewed wholly apart, and seen in political contexts scarcely imagined by people at the time.
This new volume in the ‘Judging’ series is the first dual and comparative biography of Redmond and Carson - the first to assess them as contemporaries would have done. It uses both new approaches and much new evidence to shed fresh light on their sometimes fraught private lives, their professional and political achievements, and their stands on violence and war. The result is a strikingly original reassessment of the two men and their legacies.
'A very good book indeed'. Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland.
'Now that Brexit has made the Irish border a live political issue once again, the origins of partition a century ago have never been more relevant. This comparative biography by Alvin Jackson illuminates with insight and wisdom the lives of the two politicians and treats of the great events in which they participated. The book, the latest in the 'Judging' series from the Royal Irish Academy, is a beautiful production, crammed with wonderful photographs, cartoons and illustrations of all kinds. Looking at key historical events through two parallel lives is not entirely new but Jackson's book is a fine example of the genre. He is not only one of the foremost historians of the period, he also has the ability to be both fair and critical of his subjects. Too many historians have little sympathy or understanding for the kind of dilemmas faced by politicians on a daily basis. Jackson teases out the choices faced by Redmond and Carson, without ever underestimating the challenges faced by both'. Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Summer 2018.
‘Given the re-emerging debate around Northern Ireland’s constitutional position after Brexit, last June’s Conservative Party-DUP confidence-and-supply pact at Westminster, and the relatively new leaderships of nationalism and unionism (Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill), this book provokes as many questions for us today as it explores about the past, in addition to the many lessons it provides … The closing of the 1990s coincided with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and hopes for a better Irish century. Political dialogue and peace have shown we have more in common in Northern Ireland than we think. And so did these men. On the twentieth anniversary of the Agreement, this reassessment of the two men and their legacies is both original and much needed’. Connor Daly, Northern Slant, April 2018
'This dual biography by one of Ireland’s most distinguished historians, Professor Alvin Jackson of Edinburgh University, is premised on the notion that – to quote its author – “the parallel lives of great rivals or great antagonists (or great friends) … [can] achieve an analytical traction that might not otherwise be possible with the consideration of an individual life”. It certainly succeeds in challenging many popular perceptions of its subjects, John Redmond and Edward Carson, through a skilful comparative study of their personalities, values and actions'. Felix Larkin, The Irish Catholic, April 2018
'[Jackson is] one of the finest historians writing about Irish and British history, and [this book] adds to his already considerable reputation … it represents a more nuanced and mature approach to the conflicts that shaped the Irish state and the state of Northern Ireland as each approach their centenary … if we can approach the past with toleration, respect and understanding, then perhaps we can approach our challenges of the present in the same way as well’. An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, Royal Irish Academy, March 2018
'Alvin Jackson brings to life two contrasting characters, Redmond and Carson, who despite their political rivalries, remained friends … excellent book, which helps us to understand critical moments in Irish history … Alvin Jackson writes with verve and is confident in his judgements. He delves into the character of each man and allows the reader to get to know them as people, rather than as the political icons they became’. John Bruton, former Taoiseach of Ireland (1994-97), The Irish Times, March 2018
‘the fifth volume in the Royal Irish Academy’s superbly produced and illustrated Judging series, which seeks to reassess major Irish historical figure. Whereas previous volumes focused on individuals like de Valera or Cosgrave, this is the first to explore the genre of comparative biography … the concept works excellently here … it lets Jackson throw up fascinating juxtapositions, contradictions and commonalities between the two men, contextualising their actions in the complex game of political chess played out between them before 1914 … an insightful reappraisal of two contrasting figures whose triumphs and failures take on a greater resonance for being considered alongside those of their greatest rival’ Dermot Bolger, Sunday Business Post, March 2018
'a terrific read, and told by Alvin Jackson with great brio’ Ronan McGreevy, The Irish Times, February 2018
‘original and insightful joint biography’, Brendan Walsh, The Tablet, February 2018