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On the Edge

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Imprint: Profile Books
Subject: History & Classics
Illustrations: 16 page plate section

On the Edge

Ireland’s off-shore islands: a modern history

Diarmaid Ferriter

The first ever really honest account of the reality of Ireland's offshore islands

eBook (ePUB/MOBI)?
9781782832522 (4 Oct 2018)

About the book


The islands off the coast of Ireland have long been a source of fascination. Seen as repositories of an ancient Irish culture and the epitome of Irish romanticism, they have attracted generations of scholars, artists and filmmakers, from James Joyce to Robert O'Flaherty, looking for a way of life uncontaminated by modernity or materialism.

But the reality for islanders has been a lot more complex. They faced poverty, hardship and official hostility, even while being expected to preserve an ancient culture and way of life. Writing in her 1936 autobiography, Peig Sayers, resident of Blaskets island, described it as 'this dreadful rock'. In 1841, there were 211 inhabited islands with a combined population of 38,000; by 2011, only 64 islands were inhabited, with a total population of 8,500. And younger generations continue to leave.

By documenting the island experiences and the social, cultural and political reaction to them over the last 100 years, On the Edge examines why this exodus has happened, and the gulf between the rhetoric that elevated island life and the reality of the political hostility towards them.It uncovers, through state and private archives, personal memoirs, newspaper coverage, and the author's personal travels, the realities behind the "dreadful rocks", and the significance of the experiences of, and reactions to, those who were and remain, literally, on the very edge of European civilisation.

About the author

Diarmaid Ferriter is one of Ireland's best- known historians and is Professor of Modern Irish History at UCD. His most recent book is A Nation and not a Rabble: The Irish Revolution 1913-23 (2015). His books include The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000 (2004), Occasions of Sin: Sex and Society in Modern Ireland (2009) and Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s (2012), all published by Profile. He is a regular broadcaster on television and radio and a weekly columnist with the Irish Times. In 2010 he presented a three-part history of twentieth century Ireland, The Limits of Liberty, on RTE television.


On the Edge is a superb book, painstakingly researched and brilliantly written.

- Irish Examiner

Ferriter skilfully poses big questions with the small stories of small places

- Irish Times

...packed with intriguing analysis and historical detail

- Irish Independent

This timely book is a good a place as any to start an important debate

- Sunday Independent (Ireland)

Ferriter's unique book abut Ireland's offshore islands, is a treasure trove of new research on the economies, cultures, survival strategies, evacuations and extraordinary people who inhabited places held up to us as the cradle of Gaelic civilisation.

- Catriona Crowe, Irish Times

Additional Information

Imprint: Profile Books
Subject: History & Classics
Illustrations: 16 page plate section

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