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BBC-RTE: Fergal Keane – The Story of Ireland 2 of 5 – Age of Conquest



A new five-part landmark series, written and presented by BBC Special Correspondent Fergal Keane, The Story of Ireland is a clear-eyed and expansive view of the history of the island and its people from its earliest times to the present day. Far from being a remote European outpost, episode one charts the formation of Ireland’s DNA by successive ways of invaders and settlers. Along the way, Keane exposes the myth of Ireland’s Celtic identity – he travels to Norway and presents the Vikings as resourceful settlers and traders in Ireland rather than as the barbarous marauders of popular belief. He also follows the trail of the early Iris monks as they bring their literature and learning through Europe to re-energise the Christian world, in the early Middle Ages.

There is an alternative view articulated by John Gibney

The story of Ireland arrived on British and Irish television screens with considerable fanfare, the first comprehensive TV history of Ireland since Robert Kee’s Ireland: a history in 1981. Now, 30 years later, comes a multimillion-euro co-production between the BBC and RTÉ, filmed across the world and fronted by former BBC foreign correspondent Fergal Keane (John B.’s nephew). The series sought to tell the putative ‘story of Ireland’ in five episodes, thereby segmenting Irish history into five ‘ages’: the ‘age of invasions’ (the period prior to the twelfth-century English invasion: a term recently and plausibly rehabilitated by Thomas Bartlett and implicitly confirmed here); the ‘age of conquest’ (from then until the end of the calamitous sixteenth century); the ‘age of revolution’ (from the plantations of the early seventeenth century to the Act of Union); the ‘age of union’ (the nineteenth century); and, finally, the ‘age of nations’ (the twentieth century). According to the publicity that accompanied it, The story of Ireland would eschew the narrow perspective of viewing Irish history exclusively through the prism of the Anglo-Irish relationship; it would instead examine Irish history in terms of Ireland’s role in the world at large, and in a manner that would dispel cliché and myths to reveal the true complexity of Ireland’s historical experience. This was a series that promised much.It failed to deliver, especially given both the publicity that accompanied it and the British and Irish taxpayers’ money that was obviously spent on it. Instead of the exciting and innovative analysis that one was led to expect, The story of Ireland turned out to be a ponderous and unimaginative television experience. To be fair to it, the first two episodes were decent enough, if hardly earth-shattering, but after these the quality of the series nosedived drastically, thanks to fundamental problems with both the manner in which it was presented and the substance of what was being presented. MORE AT LINK

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