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Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland
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Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  421 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
Compellingly written and even-handed in its judgments, this is by far the clearest account of what has happened through the years in the Northern Ireland conflict, and why. After a chapter of background on the period from 1921 to 1963, it covers the ensuing period the descent into violence, the hunger strikes, the Anglo-Irish accord, the bombers in England to the present s ...more
Hardcover, 323 pages
Published March 18th 2002 by New Amsterdam Books (first published October 1st 2000)
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Paul Bryant
Oct 03, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
In 1972 a total of 498 people were killed in Northern Ireland, which had a small population of around 1.5 million. It was a very violent place. The total body count of The Troubles is 3,739 between 1966 and 2012 (but the murders have not been in double figures since 2004.) Now – can anyone tell me how many people have died in Iraq’s complex internal wars since 2003? Is anyone counting? And that’s just one example. How long have you got?

Really, as civil wars go, it was not much to write home abou
Peter Colclasure
Apr 02, 2016 Peter Colclasure rated it really liked it
Catholics and Protestants kill each other for several decades. Then they stop.

This is the fourth book I've read about the Troubles since an Irish history class in college piqued my interest. Occasionally, in bars, I'll try and engage my fellow Americans in a discussion of this conflict, only to watch their eyes glaze over in boredom. Here's why you, as an American, should care about a convoluted war on the rainy edge of Europe that ended 15 years ago:

1. It proves that racism has nothing to do w
Apr 17, 2016 Elfl0ck rated it liked it
Making Sense of the Troubles is a pretty remarkable work of scholarship. Unfortunately, it's not the work of scholarship I was expecting based on the title and summary.

What this book succeeds at is giving a comprehensive historical overview of a very complex historical moment. However, it tends to stick very closely to the facts, while rarely exploring their motivations and significance. I now know a lot of names and dates, but I'm no closer to making sense of any of them.

For example, I understa
Mac McCormick III
Jan 21, 2014 Mac McCormick III rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I am a complete novice when it comes to the history of Ireland and Northern Ireland, so I come to the subject with an open mind and as a book with blank pages waiting to be filled in. I was born just a few years after the “The Troubles” began and while conscious that they were occurring, I never really knew much more about them than the violence that was reported on the evening news. I knew that there were problems but I didn’t know what those problems were. Throughout my education, mentions of ...more
Vanessa Meachen
Growing up on the other side of the world from Northern Ireland, IRA bombings and shootings were regularly reported, in such a way that I always worried that if I ever went to England, the IRA would get me. The reporting was very one-sided - the words "sectarian violence" were used frequently but there was very little reporting of any violence carried out by the loyalist factions and not a lot of background of any kind. It makes me wonder whether, if the IRA had not been active in England, we wo ...more
Allan Leonard
Apr 26, 2012 Allan Leonard rated it liked it
Good for accuracy, not so good for background

Making Sense stays true to its objective, to tell ‘a straightforward and gripping story … in an accessible way’. It is a straightforward read.

But is it a good read? Yes, if you don’t want to be bogged down with pre-Troubles history (too simplistically outlined in the book) or don’t need to understand the ideologies of unionism and nationalism per se. In this way, Making Sense feels written for a general English/benign foreign audience.

However, if you
Apr 21, 2014 Kieran rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I finished this book, 'The Two Towers' was on in the background:
"It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo, the ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer. Thos
May 04, 2015 Sarah rated it liked it
This book started out slow, but then it picked up about halfway through. It provides important information for understanding the troubles in Northern Ireland. I learned so much about this part of Northern Ireland's history. I will definitely keep what I learned in mind when I am visiting Northern Ireland this month.
Robert P. Hoffman
Mar 17, 2016 Robert P. Hoffman rated it really liked it
The discussion of the origins of the troubles in the late 1960s and early 1970s is well done. The authors do a good job of showing how the IRA emerged and how the IRA used terrorism to advance its interests.

One important point the authors made was how IRA supporters in the US acted as though the conflict was between the Irish and the English and no thought given to all the Protestants who lived in Northern Ireland, were the majority, and had no desire to see Ireland united.

Protestants used thre
Mar 30, 2016 strawberryfields rated it really liked it
In October 2015, i was on holiday in Northern Ireland for almost a week. More than 15 years after the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, the country still seemed like a divided nation to me, especially in some areas of Derry and Belfast. Even though car bombs and paramilitary shootings are mostly a thing of the past, Northern Ireland is still riven by the historical impact of almost 40 years of sectarian and political conflict.

The title of this book is no exaggeration: Whether you've been in Norther
Noelle Kain
Sep 23, 2014 Noelle Kain rated it really liked it
This book's biggest flaw, which isn't really a flaw at all, is that it left out information. Of course, if it hadn't it would have been completely unwieldy. That said, I did find it interesting that Michael Collins is never mentioned, but that we get several quoted bloody descriptions of the aftermaths of bombings. Likewise, the book mirrored the RUC, military and really, world's, habit of paying more attention to the IRA than the various militant Protestant groups. It was a very good and pretty ...more
Leif Bodnarchuk
Jan 05, 2015 Leif Bodnarchuk rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-complete
Loved it. I first moved to Northern Ireland in 1987 when I was 14 years old. This book has helped me further grasp the history of the young country, along with its social and political turmoils.

It's pretty easy to read –I admit I was glued to the violent events more so than some of the political discourse. That said, being unfamiliar with some of the names of key players, I found the density of names and places at times was a bit thick –like me :-)

Even still, as far as academic works go, this is
Dec 28, 2015 kristen rated it it was amazing
100% mandatory reading for anyone interested in the conflict.
Jun 05, 2015 Phil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Throughout that dismal period of British and Irish history known as "the Troubles" (1969-98), the "Independent" newspaper's David McKittrick was a reliable, well-informed, and fair-minded commentator on the seemingly intractable struggle between Unionists, Republicans, and the UK government. This survey of the causes, events, and resolution of what was almost, but not quite, a modern Civil War on UK territory, is similarly insightful and comprehensive, in all senses of that word. With his collab ...more
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]First off, this is one of the best books that I've read about the Troubles. It combines - not quite effortlessly, but at least effectively - at least three genres: i) the technocratic concentration on big picture processes that you get in Flackes and Elliott, Bew and Gillespie, and even (I must admit) my own website; ii) the inside account of the Republican movement and the "armed struggle", drawing on Tim Pat Coogan and to an extent the insi ...more
"(...) accept the truth of the old saying that it is not those who inflict the most who ultimately win, but those who endure the most."

An updated account of the Troubles with numerous facts and figures. Indispensable for anyone eager to dig in the history of a once troubled nation. The more personal approach of the matter is to be found in eg. Conlon's "Proved Innocent" and Toolis's "Rebel Hearts".
Mike McCormick
Very Comprehensive History of the Troubles

I started this book before visiting Northern Ireland for the first time. I found it to every comprehensive and even handed. This is a great first and last book for those interested in the history of Northern Ireland.
Jan 02, 2015 Sseonana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A well written and neutral account of the Northern Irish conflict. I knew a little about the tensions between loyalists/republicans, protestants/catholics that eventually led to the troubles before reading this account, but McKittrick manages to make a very messy and complicated subject accessible and interesting.
Nov 10, 2014 Rob rated it it was amazing
an excellent starting point for a clear, concise and insightful view of the troubles. the updated edition is best with the extra chapters on post good Friday northern Ireland
Jun 27, 2014 Ann rated it liked it
Shelves: phd-diss
A bit too brief an overview but when you only use a little more than 200 pages to explain 80 years of cobflict you're going to cut things short. It was a good starting point for me though.
Apr 25, 2014 Glen rated it really liked it
Struggled a bit ... Lots of information however ... Excellent resource ... Insights into the Irish conflict ...
Laura Pollard
This book is really good if you want to know and understand what happened and why it did during The Troubles.
I do have a few issues with it though. It's very dense. It's fact after fact after fact. This helped me learn a lot but it was tedious at times to get through. Also, it stops around the Good Friday Agreement which really is nowhere near the end of the story. I wish that it included a little more about recent issues. Finally, it presented the issues primarily from a Nationalist perspectiv
Rob Murphy
Apr 14, 2016 Rob Murphy rated it liked it
The Troubles in Northern Ireland is a more complex issue than they seem to be on the surface. The violence in Northern Ireland throughout its history is seeped in religious, cultural, political and nationalistic concerns. This book does a good job of outlining the difficulties facing Irish Catholics fighting for equality in their homeland. Beginning with a very quick and surface level summary of the Troubles before the 1960 and ending with the peace process in the 1990s, this is a great primer f ...more
Feb 20, 2016 Pinko rated it really liked it
Balanced, fair, informative and dry as dust. Doesn't really make sense of the troubles, but it does tell the story of the conflict in Northern Ireland
Marko Jerina
Apr 16, 2016 Marko Jerina rated it really liked it
Just facts, but still shocking.
Jesse Young
Aug 18, 2015 Jesse Young rated it really liked it
Put simply, this is a textbook. But a really solid one. The writing lacks any flare and is strictly just-the-facts. Still, it's a good, short primer to the Troubles through 2001. I really wanted to understand Northern Ireland's history, and this does a great job.
Apr 08, 2009 Sam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Informative and well researched, I found this book very useful in getting my head around the Troubles, who was involved, why it all started and what the arguements are on both sides. This book manages to put all of the main arguements and events across without being preachy to one side or the other and without condoning or condeming any side for their actions (although much of the time all sides deserve a good clip around the ear).
Matti Karjalainen
Kiinnostava ja puolueettomana pysyttelevä yleisesitys Pohjois-Irlannin väkivaltaisesta konfliktista ja sen päättäneestä poliittisesta kehityksestä 1900-luvun alkupuolelta aina viime vuosiin saakka.
Oct 11, 2015 tom rated it really liked it
if you realise one day that you know basically nothing about the 20th century history and politics of Northern Ireland, this is a good place to come.
Luke Womick
Great research. Very dense and worth the effort as it gives a 3-D view of what happened and why it's so volatile. NI really mirrors the Middle East.
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  • Belfast Diary: War as a Way of Life
  • Rebel Hearts: Journeys Within the IRA's Soul
  • The Troubles: Ireland's Ordeal 1966-1996 and the Search for Peace
  • Killing Rage
  • A Secret History of the IRA: Gerry Adams and the Thirty Year War
  • Ten Men Dead: The Story of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike
  • Bandit Country: The IRA & South Armagh
  • Provos: The IRA & Sinn Fein
  • Those Are Real Bullets: Bloody Sunday, Derry, 1972
  • The Price of My Soul
  • Rebels: The Irish Rising of 1916
  • Bobby Sands: Writings from Prison
  • Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA
  • Before the Dawn: An Autobiography
  • The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849
  • The Green Flag, Vols 1-3
  • The Oxford History of Ireland

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