The historians’ first task is to try to understand the past in its own terms. It is a notorious whig fallacy which evaluates insitutions, ideas, events or whatever, by reference to later or present-day criteria. Nevertheless, while it is incumbent upon the historian to ‘get behind hindsight’ as best he can, it is also perfectly legitimate to explore the ways in which the past shaped its own future or our present. Thus Marianne Elliott has argued that ‘the history of Irish republicanism has always suffered from an excessive concentration on its later phases. But much light can be thrown on its essential characteristics by a closer examination of its origins’.1 The legend of the United Irish movement, of Wolfe Tone, and of the 1798 rebellion, became the foundation myths of the republican tradition, although the vitality of that tradition was not soon apparent.
- 5.A.Cronin,An Irish eye (Kerry,1985),123–31.Google Scholar