The 'Bandon Valley Massacre' as a Historical Problem

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    Over three nights in late April 1922, eighteen people were killed in west county Cork, in Ireland. All save one of the dead were Protestants. This article re-examines one of the most iconic and contested pieces of Irish historical writing to appear in recent decades: Peter Hart's chapter 'Taking it out on the Protestants', published in his award winning monograph, The IRA and its Enemies (1998). It has long been acknowledged that there were problems in Hart's use of sources supporting his thesis, that the massacre was a sectarian-inspired event. But the extent of these problems only becomes apparent when the primary sources are examined in detail. Doing this allows us to deconstruct Hart's methodology and narrative, thereby identifying the criteria for his selection of evidence, alongside examining how he addressed anomalies in the evidence, which questioned whether what motivated the killings was indeed sectarian hatred. We cannot know what precisely happened in West Cork during the massacre. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify an ahistorical methodology at work in Hart's chapter, which props up an unambiguous, and for that, an equally ahistorical narrative of random sectarian murder. Recognition of this sends a stark warning to the wider community about the necessity of verifying sources when reviewing historical writing, in order to check interpretative problems and academic fraud.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)70-98
    Number of pages29
    Issue number325
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


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