"Remembering the Year of the French" is a model of historical achievement, moving deftly between the study of historical events - the failed French invasion of the West of Ireland in 1798 - and folkloric representations of those events. Delving into the folk history found in Ireland's rich oral traditions, Guy Beiner reveals alternate visions of the Irish past and brings into focus the vernacular histories, folk commemorative practices, and negotiations of memory that have gone largely unnoticed by historians. Beiner analyzes hundreds of hitherto unstudied historical, literary, and ethnographic sources. Though his focus is on 1798, his work is also a comprehensive study of Irish folk history and grass-roots social memory in Ireland. Investigating how communities in the West of Ireland remembered, well into the mid-twentieth century, an episode in the late eighteenth century, this is a "history from below" that gives serious attention to the perspectives of those who have been previously ignored or discounted. Beiner brilliantly captures the stories, ceremonies, and other popular traditions through which local communities narrated, remembered, and commemorated the past.
Demonstrating the unique value of folklore as a historical source, "Remembering the Year of the French" offers a fresh perspective on collective memory and modern Irish history.
Guy Beiner is lecturer in history at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. He has been a research fellow at Trinity College Dublin and an NEH Keough Irish Studies Fellow at Notre Dame University, and he is the author of many articles on modern Irish history and memory.