Irish historical fiction
Ireland’s history - generally flashpoint periods when conflicting ideologies meet and when conflicting loyalties are tested - remains a focus of Irish writing for the young. (Click here for a list of titles with short summaries.)
Such historical fiction is usually of the highest order, with leading writers tackling key events in Ireland's past, conscious that the readership is very historically aware. Imagination must be combined with respect for the past.
Adventure of writing historical fiction
Morgan Llywelyn is one of Ireland's leading writers of historical fiction, including three novels used by IiS (Brian Boru, Strongbow, and The Pirate Queen). She has spoken about 'the adventure of writing historical fiction' in an interview for the O'Brien Press:
'History is a time machine.
With an historical novel we can open a door into the past any time we want and join the heroes and villains there.
In Ireland we have had more gallant heroes - and dreadful villains - than most countries.
Every one of them has a story to tell.'
Does Irish historical fiction tell the truth?
Recently, however, in a masterly survey
(Inis, vol. 12, Summer 2005), Celia Keenan has concluded that 'even though recent Irish history for children tells truths, it does not tell the whole truth'.
What is missing, a casualty of the Troubles, is 'a revolutionary or nationalist interpretation of Irish history'.
Irish historical fiction in the classroom
Such a debate - and the 'adventure of writing historical fiction' - underline the value of Irish historical fiction in the classroom, 'vividly reminding readers of the human, social and political dimensions to the school subject usually referred to in mere abstract terms
Four Irish historical novels have, in particular, stimulated teachers and students alike to ponder the value of historical fiction in helping to understand the past:
A further resource
The approach used in the 1916 and Second World War study units has been much influenced by the EACH historical fiction project.
The project began in 1993 and is concerned with developing the effective use of historical fiction in the teaching of history.
'The essence of the work has been for students to read historical fiction set in an historical period, to research aspects of that same period and then to write their own historical fiction.'