My research will investigate the afterlife of Michael Collins; it will thematically analyse political commemoration, rhetoric, historiography, iconography and memory. A recent shift in the outlook of historians from past events and personalities to that of their subsequent impact, has ensured that the afterlives of historical figures have attracted increased scholarly interest.
From the 1990s Michael Collins has been widely regarded as the most frequently studied and consequently famous figure in Irish history. Countless books exist, various television documentaries and a 1996 film, all depicting various interpretations of his life. Despite this evident fascination there has been a noticeable lapse of attention placed on his ‘afterlife’—a phenomenon which began with the funeral procession—a symbolic event often omitted in biographical accounts of Collins. But when the crowds had dispersed, how was the memory of Collins maintained, promoted and perceived? This provokes interest as for the initial quarter of a century following his death, two diametrically opposed governments, Cumann na nGaedheal and Fianna Fáil, had essentially promoted and influenced the Irish population with their own interpretations of Collins— often exclusively for political advancement.
The thesis will look at the afterlife of Michael Collins as a means of exploring wider questions: how were the historical narratives involving Collins constructed following the Revolution? In what fashion did Collins’ former advocates and adversaries seek to shape, influence and contest his reputation? As it is widely accepted that the fame of Collins did not peak until the 1990s, with the release of Coogan’s biography and Neil Jordan’s film, does this indicate that how Collins was perceived confirms more about contemporary society than Collins himself?
The role of memory will form a significant portion of the research, crucially the recollections of Collins recorded in the Bureau of Military History. Popular imagery and iconography of Collins will be analysed, such as the now famous photograph of Collins at the funeral of Arthur Griffith, and Sir John Lavery’s ‘Love of Ireland.’ The commemorative significance of Collins will also be investigated, including the rhetoric spoken at these events. A chronological exploration of the biographical tradition of Collins including authors, editions and state attitudes towards these will investigate how, and to what extent, contemporary issues impacted how history involving Collins was written. This project will extend the thematic and chronological scope of previous research. And through an investigation into the afterlife of Michael Collins an attempt will be made to gauge post-revolutionary perceptions and reconciliation levels of a society emerging from, and again embarking upon, bitter political conflict.
Nationalism and Republicanism in the nineteenth and twentieth century; the quest for Catholic Emancipation, Repeal and Home Rule. Fenianism; the Easter Rebellion; the Irish Revolution and the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
ACHIEVEMENTS AND DISTINCTIONS:
Bachelor of Arts in Irish History and Society (First Class Honours); Master of Arts in Irish History and Politics (Distinction).