Newfoundland historian Peter Hart, 46, was an expert on the IRA

Historians in the News

A good historian is expected to be meticulous and balanced. A very good historian is challenging, perceptive, integrative, and nuanced. But a great historian is all that and more – audacious and brave. Peter Hart, who died at 46 on July 22 following a brain aneurysm, was well on his way to becoming a great historian. Although only in mid-career, he was already a major international figure in Irish history.

His first book, The I.R.A. and Its Enemies: Violence and Community in Cork, 1916-1923 (Oxford University Press, 1998), “remains a work of central importance,” according to Richard English, professor of politics at Queen’s University Belfast. “Peter’s work brought together the methods of the historian and the social scientist, and it represents still the most important analysis of, for example, the social structure of the early 20{+t}{+h} century IRA, and the local dynamics of conflict in the Irish revolution.”

Among Hart’s strengths was his impartiality, his ability to remain non-partisan even in so fractious an arena as modern Irish history. Psychologically astute, he once said in an interview that he was interested in violence because “once people become violent, any difference between the two sides is essentially eliminated. Both act the same. People always used the same excuses for murdering people.”

The I.R.A. and its Enemies won the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize in 1999, “a prestigious award for a work helping to increase understanding between Britain and Ireland,” according to Roy Foster, Carroll Professor of Irish History, Hertford College, Oxford. “It was founded by the widow of Christopher Ewart-Biggs, the British ambassador to Ireland who was assassinated by the IRA in 1976.”...
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