Terence Dooley Burning the Big House

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The gripping story of the tumultuous destruction of the Irish country house, spanning the revolutionary years of 1912 to 1923

During the Irish Revolution nearly three hundred country houses were burned to the ground. These "Big Houses" were powerful symbols of conquest, plantation, and colonial oppression, and were caught up in the struggle for independence and the conflict between the aristocracy and those demanding access to more land. Stripped of their most important artifacts, most of the houses were never rebuilt and ruins such as Summerhill stood like ghostly figures for generations to come.

Terence Dooley offers a unique perspective on the Irish Revolution, exploring the struggles over land, the impact of the Great War, and why the country mansions of the landed class became such a symbolic target for republicans throughout the period. Dooley details the shockingly sudden acts of occupation and destruction-including soldiers using a Rembrandt as a dart board-and evokes the exhilaration felt by the revolutionaries at seizing these grand houses and visibly overturning the established order.

About the Author

Terence Dooley is professor of history at Maynooth University and Director at the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates. He is the author of numerous books including The Decline of the Big House in Ireland.

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'In Terence Dooley's fascinating and troubling new study, a more nuanced picture emerges. Professor Dooley's pioneering work with Maynooth's Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses has left him better placed than most to describe these campaigns of intimidation, and he does this with style, giving us what must surely be the definitive account of the burnings...Elegantly and persuasively, he dismantles the myths surrounding the burning of the Big House.'
- Adrian Tinniswood, The Daily Telegraph

'A fascinating, insightful and scholarly study...What emerges from it is a much more complex, nuanced story than that which has been conventionally accepted...The author has made brilliant and extensive use of primary sources...He doesn't take sides or lapse into nostalgia for what was lost, although the black-and-white illustrations within the text offer a tantalising glimpse of these vanished buildings.'
- John Goodall, Country Life

'Dooley is a skilled narrator, capable of crisply exposing the inventions of national myth...It remains the great strength of Dooley's work that it goes beyond the pious rhetoric of heroic struggle and ancient wrongs to expose the grim brutality that accompanied the birth of a new nation.'
- Andrew Gailey, Literary Review

'This book is one of the most substantial contributions to the historiography of modern Ireland to have been written in recent decades, with its originality lying particularly in the way it angles the history of the period to the experiences of the landed elite without constituting merely a history of that elite.'
- Philip Bull, author of Monksgrange: Portrait of an Irish House and Family, 1769-1969

'In all the fraught history of the Irish country house there is no more dramatic episode than that covered by this book. Professor Dooley is the ideal person to reveal a compelling if catastrophic story that, to date, has not received the scholarly attention it deserves.'
- Clive Aslet, author of The Story of the Country House


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