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Scholarcast 28: Ireland, Empire and the Archipelago

UCD Scholarcast - Series 7: The Literatures and Cultures of the Irish Sea

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By 1916 the British Empire was at a point of crisis. The beginning of the First World War marked the end of a half-century of expansion in trade and speculation that made the empire a global network for the exchange of capital. Consequently, the foundations of Irish separatism were built in movements antagonistic to world trade. Self-help, folk culture and native language were conceived as late compensation for human losses incurred by the displacement of local resources into the global flow. Irish culture had its own recent and bitter evidence for the decimation of an imperial attachment. The memory of the famine inhabited the same cultural space as the increasing import of traded goods in the second half of the ninteenth century and beginning of the twentieth. So it is that James Joyce's short story 'The Dead' pictures the legacy of hunger through the imagination of a meal. If this first wave of globalization came to an end in Britain with the declaration of war in 1914, it suffered fatal arrest in Ireland in 1916. Reaction to the global empire underpinned the cultural and political movements that fed the rebellion. The Easter Rising was a product of the old order and a siren of the revolutions still to come.


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