‘Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland’s History 1912-1923‘ was the name of the online class that I just completed thanks to the partnership between Trinity College and Futurelearn. It certainly lived up to its title, but not in the way I expected. Gone were the heroic tales of Patrick Pearse, Constance Markievicz, or Michael Collins. In their places were the voices, letters, and stories of the average person, struggling to get through his or her life in Ireland during periods of protracted conflict. It featured soldiers and volunteers pretty equally and it was really well constructed. I had a fascinating six weeks and I can’t even begin to tell you how much inspiration it gave me or how many historical events have a new twist (or ten) to think about after taking the course. Thousands of people worldwide took this class online, so I guess the first thing that must be said is way to go Ireland – people like you! And the next is a huge thank you to the teachers, mentors and researchers because this class was really enjoyable and educational.
The biggest perk is probably the vast amount of primary sources and tips they give to their students. The research for the class must have taken years to compile – and all of the resources they give you stay available to the student long after the course is over. Many come from the military archives – but that site (and others like it) is so extensive that I may never have found the recording of Maud Gonne remembering the Rising, nor would I have seen many of the articles from long defunct newspapers without the class links. It was a new and different way of exploring Irish history and the take aways from the course are amazing. It led to a deeper understanding of every day lives in constant battle – and led directly to my Cost of the Rising post and many others to come.
The class was so successful that they are offering it again in the months leading up to the Centenary celebration of the Easter Rising. I highly recommend registering when it is offered again. Fair warning though – the resources they give and the questions they ask will lead to many rabbit holes you can get totally lost in. I’ve barely scratched the surface even a month after completing the class. I’m hoping the widespread interest inspires Trinity College to offer even more history classes in the future but until that time, keep your eyes open for this one. If you’re interested, you can be notified when it starts again by following this link. Dr. Anne Dolan, Dr. Ciarán Wallace and Prof. Ciaran Brady put a lot of effort into it and it really pays off in the end for everyone with any fascination for Ireland or interest in Irish history.