Quickly following the conclusion of the spring term the family and I packed up for a five-week stint in Dublin – our old stomping grounds. After a horrendous Delta-operated flight that included a 24 layover in New York (we were made stay in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens) we settled into digs in Donneybrook. The purpose of this trip was professional, but we still managed to connect with old friends. I was aided by an Idaho Humanities Council Research Fellowship, which eased the financial burden of research and accommodation in Dublin. The purpose of this research trip was to tie up loose ends on a monograph manuscript I have been nursing for about a year. All-in-all, I believe I was able to consult the necessary material, which was housed in the National Library of Ireland, the National Archives of Ireland, and the University College Dublin Archives.
In mid-June I travelled to Limerick to present in the Collegial Colleges in Exile Conference, where I was finally able to present on research I conducted at the Irish College, Paris, in 2010! The conference was held at Mary Immaculate College, an extension of the University of Limerick.
The family and I returned briefly to Idaho in late June/early July before parting ways for roughly two weeks – Meg, Liam and Catherine travelled to Michigan, and I returned to Europe. After touching down briefly in London I departed for Portugal to attend the Second World Congress of Environmental History, held in Guiamraes, an hour’s drive from Oporto near the coast. It was a wonderful setting and a massive meeting. My paper, “Reconstructing the British Isles: Environment and Society Following the Great War and Irish Revolution,” was a comparative examination of the politicization of restoring war-torn environments in Britain and Ireland that stemmed from two distinct conflicts: the First World War (1914-18) and the Irish Revolution (1916-23). This paper featured Geographic Information Systems-generated maps (expertly prepared by my graduate research assistant Kurt Kirkpatrick) that illustrated the progression of environmental destruction in Ireland as a result of guerrilla warfare – mainly cases of arson, felled trees, trenches dug and walls destroyed. This research utilized recently released reparations files under the Destruction of Property (Ireland) Acts, as well as evidence from over one hundred contemporary witness statements. Overall, this paper concluded that the politics of environmental restoration were much more divisive in Ireland following guerrilla warfare and civil war than they were in Britain, where damage caused by a legitimate foreign belligerent (Germany) prompted national consensus toward rebuilding. This conference was my first introduction to the field of environmental history and provided an array of new historical insights. Primary amongst these is the environmental concept of “sacrifice zones,” or areas in which the removal of resources or destruction of environments is deemed acceptable by military and civil command as means toward a strategic end.
Portugal was lovely, and I would encourage anyone to visit. I returned to London to stay with my good friends James and Susie Murphy-O’Connor in Balham, a neighborhood in south London. For some reason I always feel quite at home in London. I find the transportation to be very efficient and the people (for the most part) to be friendly, or at least not overtly rude. Balham was a gem. Small coffee shops and restaurants and an exceptional open green. While in London I worked on another conference presentation for the Perceptions of Pregnancy: from Medieval to Modern conference, hosted by the University of Hertfordshire. I was invited to attend this conference, deliver a paper and act as a panel chair by my good friend and colleague Ciara Meehan.
My paper, “Pregnancy, Parenthood and the Irish Revolution: Violence and Vulnerability, 1916-1923” inserted male perceptions of family and the vulnerability of children in civil conflicts into the conference’s wider focus on pregnancy, motherhood, and infants. It was well received, and I gained a variety of insights from attendees, including the plenary speakers Joanne Bailey (Oxford Brookes University) and Elaine Farrell (Queen’s University Belfast). More importantly, I met with Professor Sarah Lloyd, Principal Investigator of the “Everyday Lives in War” project at Hertfordshire, who suggested collaboration with Idaho State University throughout the centenary of the Great War. I look to participate in this project through 2018.
Now, sitting comfortably in my new office amidst books and papers, I can’t help but feel relieved to have honored my summer commitments. I have two weeks to re-submit returned articles, prep for autumn classes, and continue to unpack our new home before we’re off to Lake Tahoe for a family wedding.
Here is a brief overview of what lies ahead over the next few months:
- I’ll be contributing a short piece on Ireland, Brittany and the Great War for the new Four Nations History Network blog.
- I will soon write a short overview of my research for the University of Hertfordshire First World War Centre project (Everyday Lives in War: experience and memory of the FWW).
- The autumn issue of the journal Peace & Change will be a special edition on the topic of the Northern Ireland peace process. I am guest editor on this volume, which highlights the use of symbols in the construction (and deconstruction) of peace.
- I recently submitted an abstract for the American Conference for Irish Studies-Midwest Region conference to be held at Oakland University in Michigan. The theme is “Ireland: The Great War, Conflict, and the Modern Age”, and I’m hoping my abstract on violence, trauma and memory in Ireland will be accepted.