Forthcoming Book

I am excited to announce that my book, Derry City: Memory and Political Struggle in Northern Ireland, will be out in 2020 with University of Notre Dame Press. I've worked on this for a decade, on and off, and it offers a glimpse into the city I know and love.  Here is the link to it on Amazon: Derry City.

You can see it in the catalog here:  UNP Press 2020 Catalog.  The book, a study of Derry from the 1890s through the 1960s, examines the ways Catholics and nationalists drew from the past to orient themselves, to galvanize around contentious politics and to maintain an Irish identity despite the realities of living in (what became after 1922) a partitioned state.

Here's a blurb from the intro:

 In Derry, Catholics simultaneously invoked, drew on, and constructed the past through memory work— through discussions, writings, displays, commemorations, festivals, protests, religious celebrations, memorials, oral histories, personal accounts, and community conversations.[i]  Paying attention to memory reveals how Catholics drew from the past to build places (neighborhoods, institutions, frameworks) that they could retreat to and organize from during the years between 1896 and 1969. These years are not arbitrary—1896 saw the city’s first political gerrymander, ward redistricting, to achieve unionist political objectives as the Home Rule movement and the Gaelic Revival took on steam; 1969 saw not only the start of the Troubles and arrival of British troops in Northern Ireland but also the dissolution of the Londonderry Corporation, which marked the end of the era of political gerrymander and the decline of unionist political power in the city.  This process of mapping memory work and historical consciousness illuminates a deep reservoir of a community’s experience and makes visible battles that were waged quietly, out of the limelight over long periods of time.[ii] As such, this story of Catholic and nationalist memory in Derry contributes to broader histories of Ireland and Northern Ireland by inviting a reconsideration of the decades between partition and the Troubles. At the same time, it offers insight more broadly into the gestures, discourses, and rituals communities draw on to weave threads of historical consciousness out of their experiences, aspirations, and fears. 

Long before the establishment of the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State, Catholics were seen as “other” by Protestant settlers who developed and laid claim to Londonderry from the Plantation period onward.   Independence and the establishment of the Free State only three miles from Derry’s city center ruptured ties with nearby County Donegal, the place where many Derry Catholics had roots.  They created and nurtured an urban Irish Catholic culture from these experiences of difference.  Although they held a demographic majority since 1850, Catholics’ political representation was steadily reduced through periodic and strategic use of gerrymander until the dissolution of the Londonderry Corporation in 1969, constraining opportunities for political voice, geographic mobility, higher education and public employment.  Largely divorced from traditional politics for much of this time, many Catholic nationalists in Derry shaped and framed identity through relationships to home, church and neighborhood; they only episodically participated in explicitly public and political realms; thus, the city’s twentieth century cultural history of nationalism and resistance has been largely overlooked.  Yet, this history is crucial for understanding  “the interwoven politics of community, struggle and power” that shaped nationalists’ perceptions of and commitments to civil rights and ultimately ushered in the era of conflict the world came to know as the Troubles.[1] More broadly, it also invites a rethinking of the longstanding trope of an Ulster Catholic “culture of grievance” that has been used by historians for decades to describe, and indeed, define, Catholic attitudes towards public life in Northern Ireland. 

[i] For more on memory work, see Annette Kuhn, Family Secrets: Acts of Memory and Imagination (New York: Verso, 1995), 157–60.
[ii] For a political history of Northern nationalists, see Enda Staunton, The Nationalists of Northern Ireland (Dublin: Columba Press, 2001).
[iii] Tom Maguire, “Curating Hatred: The Joe McWilliams’s Controversy at the Ulster Museum,” Hate and Heritage 13, no. 1 (2017): 61.
[iv] John Lees, “Rioting Reopens Old Wounds in Northern Ireland,” New York Times, October 8, 1968, 3.
[v] Brian Keenan, introduction to Beyond Hate: Living with Our Deepest Differences, ed. Eamon Deane and Carol Ritner (Derry: Guildhall Press, 1994), xvi.


  1. This one. "Nostalgia Revisited: Memory and Identity in Catholic Derry 1896-1969".

  2. I love "Gerrymandered Memories". It evokes so many thoughts and questions on public history that I would want, no, need, to read this to see how one place has dealt with it.

  3. I say go with Gerrymandered Memories, for the reasons Anonymous says, but also because it's such a comment on the history of "Londonderry, or Derry, as the nationalists call it" (In the words of the NY Times).


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