Online Primary Sources: The Easter Rising

For a brief period of time, commencing on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, a free Ireland existed in the city of Dublin. It was short-lived as British military overwhelmed the outnumbered Irish; more than 450 people died, along with over 2,600 wounded. Overviews of this event that ultimately led to the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922 and the founding of the Irish Republic in 1923 can be perused at: history.com, the Department of the Taoiseach [Prime Minister], Easter 1916, The Irish Times, the National Library of Ireland, Century Ireland 1913-1923 (RTE), and Dublin Burning: the Easter Rising and its consequences (podcast, Dublin City Council).

Primary sources are readily available; we do not flatter ourselves into thinking this is the ultimate repository of free online source material, but we do vouchsafe for its importance. The Enhanced British Parliamentary Papers on Ireland is a digitized version of the complete set of British Parliamentary Papers covering the years 1800 to 1922. Over 14,000 documents are available; you can limit by year as well. The Hansard – the official transcripts of debates in Parliament – allows one to search for specific years/months; for the 1910s to 1920s, many speeches involve the “disturbances in Ireland”. Contemporary histories and recollections are available in HathiTrust. Hundreds of links from the National Library of Ireland provide photos and access to participants’ papers. Numerous videos of interviews and contemporary news footage from various sources can be accessed online as well. In 2003, the Bureau of Military History of the Irish Defence Force released its collection of material dealing with Ireland from 1913-1921; it includes over 1700 witness statements, hundreds of documents, numerous press clippings, and thirteen oral interviews. This was amassed between 1947 and 1957 and represents an essential source for those troubled times. A copy of the 1916 Irish Proclamation is here. A Family at War: The Diary of Mary Martin specifically covers this 1916 event. The Easter Rising Newspaper Archive presents for a limited period of time free access to the Irish press of the day. And an eyewitness account from the town clerk of Pembroke (south Dublin suburbs) is online as well. American news coverage can be found at the Chronicling America site from the Library of Congress.

“I write it out in a verse—
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.”

W.B. Yeats, Easter , 1916

 

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