Ireland, Germany and the Nazis: Politics and diplomacy, 1919–1939 by Mervyn O’Driscoll

Ireland, Germany and the Nazis: Politics and diplomacy, 1919–1939

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Print Length: 392 pages.
Language: English.
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Ireland, Germany and the Nazis: Politics and diplomacy, 1919–1939

An absorbing evaluation of independent Ireland’s response to the rise and consolidation of Nazism in Germany, this book places Irish-German relations in the context of the Irish State’s pursuit of a foreign policy independent from Britain’s. Adolf Hitler and Nazism were initially underestimated or misread by Ireland, but signs of Irish displeasure mounted as the totalitarian policies of the Nazi regime unfolded.

In an effective dual-track policy, Eamon de Valera encouraged the appeasement of Hitler until 1939. Charles Bewley, the Irish representative to Germany from 1933 to 1939, progressively aggravated his superiors in Dublin by displaying sympathy for Nazi Germany and anti-Semitism, pointedly criticizing de Valera’s wider international policies as Anglophile. Finally, in 1939, de Valera concluded that Hitler was unappeasable. Bewley was removed; his retention would have risked damaging Ireland’s reputation and undermining Irish neutrality.

First published in 2004, this book has been called ‘a fine study which will remain the standard work on this period of Irish-German relations’ by Fearghal McGarry in Irish Historical Studies, and ‘a groundbreaking study … that adds considerably to our knowledge and understanding of Irish diplomacy between the wars’ by Paul Canning in the International History Review. It has now been updated with a new preface and an expanded bibliography.

Mervyn O’Driscoll is senior lecturer in history at University College Cork. He has published internationally in the field of modern Irish history; post-war Europe and nuclear history. Some of his work includes Ireland through European eyes, 1945–1973 (lead editor), Ireland in World War Two (co-editor) and The European Parliament and the EURATOM Treaty (co-author). He is a member of the advisory committee for the Dictionary of Irish biography and serves as chair of the Royal Irish Academy’s standing committee for international affairs.

‘‘A thorough and well-researched discussion of diplomatic relations between Ireland and Germany during the interwar years’, American Historical Review.

‘Much of the extensive historiography of Irish-German relations has understandably focused on the Second World War. Or the Emergency as it was known in Ireland. In contrast, Mervyn O’Driscoll’s comprehensive study examines Irish-German relations between 1919 and 1939 and is careful to assess this period in its own terms rather than as a prelude to what would occur in 1939 … This is a fine study which will remain the standard work on this period of Irish-German relations’,Fearghal McGarry, Irish Historical Studies.

The subject of Ireland’s relations with continental European countries in the twentieth century is a grossly neglected one. Dr Mervyn O’Driscoll’s Ireland, Germany and the Nazis now makes an outstanding contribution to filling one of the major gaps in our knowledge. Based on close scholarly scrutiny of sources in both countries, it marks a notable addition to Irish historical studies’, Professor Joseph Lee.

The history of international relations focuses mostly on large states, with small ones depicted as passive recipients of their (often alarming) fate. Mervyn O’Driscoll’s subtle analysis of Ireland’s relations with Germany in the 1920s and 1930s shows how the newly independent Irish state sought to develop closer economic, cultural and diplomatic ties with Germany, while steering clear of the potentially dire consequences of this policy as Germany fell under Nazi rule. In so doing he convincingly illuminates that mixture of pragmatism and ideology, realism and self-deception that so often characterizes the foreign policy of nation states, large and small alike’ Professor D. George Boyce.


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