HIS21340 The Irish at War, 1914-1998

Academic Year 2023/2024

The twentieth century was a time of global conflict; the effects of successive world wars and ideologies profoundly shaped Irish politics and society. Many thousands of Irish people voluntarily mobilised to serve in the British military in the two world wars while republican, nationalist and loyalist ideologies brought conflict home to many others. Guerrilla warfare, reprisals, and sectarian violence became part of the Irish experience during the ‘Greater War period 1918-1923’, in common with many other European nations. The arrival of another world war in 1939 could not be ignored even in neutral Ireland and both Dublin and Belfast suffered from bombing campaigns. The Northern Ireland Troubles (1968-1998) divided communities and further blurred the line between civilian and combatant. The long tradition of Irish military service endured, with members of the Irish Defence Forces serving on peacekeeping missions far from Ireland. Irish soldiers were centrally involved in UN attempts to forcibly end the secession of the mineral-rich Congolese province of Katanga in the 1960s and in the protection of civilians in Lebanon during that country’s civil war (1975-1989). Significant numbers of Irishmen and women continued to join the British military. This course examines motivations for enlistment in the Irish or British forces or participation in paramilitaries and explores the impact of regional, national and global conflicts on the Irish population.

Key themes include mobilisation and demobilisation, veterans in civil society, gender and the military, policing insurgency, the role of the State, neutrality, remembrance and commemoration. Drawing on leading international scholarship, the module places the Irish experience in comparative context and introduces students to social, military, and cultural perspectives for studying the history of warfare.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this course you should:
- Understand the factors shaping the Irish experience and involvement in regional, national and global conflicts in the twentieth century
-Be familiar with the key concepts and methodologies which historians use to approach the history of warfare from social, military, and cultural perspectives
-Have developed your skills in analysing primary and secondary sources
-Have strengthened your skills in written analysis
-Gained experience of class discussion

Indicative Module Content:

1. Introduction: methodologies and approaches to the Irish at war
2. Propaganda, recruitment and military service 1914-1916
3. Radicalisation and re-mobilisation on the home front 1916-1918
4. Waging war at home 1919-1923
5. Northern Ireland, the British Army and the threat from republican and loyalist paramilitaries, 1920-1923
6. Volunteers and dissidents in neutral Ireland: Eire 1939-45
7. The Belfast Blitz and life in wartime Northern Ireland
8. Keeping (and enforcing) the peace: Ireland and UN, EU and NATO-led peace support operations
9. The strategies of republican and loyalist violence during the Northern Ireland Troubles, 1968-1998
10. Counter-insurgency, collusion and peacebuilding: The British and Irish States and the Northern Ireland Troubles, 1969-1998
11. Conclusion: The Irish and military service today

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Seminar (or Webinar)




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module combines large-group and small-group teaching, through a weekly lecture and seminar. Weekly lectures provide overviews of weekly topics, with focus upon key historical trends, debates and events. Weekly seminars focus on small-group active task-based learning using both secondary and primary sources related to the weekly topic covered in the lecture. Autonomous learning is nurtured through required preparatory reading each week, and a formative and summative written assignment. Key research, writing and citation skills are explicitly incorporated into seminar work and are assessed and advanced from the formative to the summative assignments.
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Essay: End of Semester Essay (1500 to 2,000 words).
See handbook for further details.
Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Continuous Assessment: Students will be graded on their participation in tutorials. Clear guidelines will be provided on the grading criteria used. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Assignment: Document Analysis focused on a primary source provided in the tutorials. Word count is 750-1000 words. Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback on the document analysis will be given online via Brightspace. Students can also meet tutors for further feedback. Feedback on the final assessment will be given online and by appointment in one-to-one meetings.

Name Role
Dr Edward Burke Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Emer O'Brien Tutor
Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Thurs 13:00 - 13:50
Seminar Offering 1 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Thurs 14:00 - 14:50
Seminar Offering 2 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Thurs 14:00 - 14:50
Seminar Offering 3 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Thurs 15:00 - 15:50
Seminar Offering 4 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Thurs 15:00 - 15:50
Seminar Offering 6 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Fri 11:00 - 11:50
Seminar Offering 7 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Fri 12:00 - 12:50