Girvin, Brian 1950–

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Girvin, Brian 1950–


Born 1950. Education: University College Cork, Ireland, B.A., M.A.; Ph.D.


Office— Department of Politics, University of Glasgow, Adam Smith Bldg., Glasgow G12 8RT, Scotland. E-mail— [email protected].


University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, faculty member, 1995—, professor of comparative politics, 2000—.


(Editor, with Roland Sturm)Politics and Society in Contemporary Ireland, Gower (Brookfield, VT), 1986.

(Editor)The Transformation of Contemporary Conservatism, Sage Publications (Newbury Park, CA), 1988.

Between Two Worlds: Politics and Economy in Independent Ireland, Barnes & Noble Books (Savage, MD), 1989.

The Right in the Twentieth Century: Conservatism and Democracy, Pinter (New York, NY), 1994.

(Editor, with Richard T. Griffiths)The Green Pool and the Origins of the Common Agricultural Policy, Lothian Foundation Press (London, England), 1995.

(Editor, with Geoffrey Roberts)Ireland and the Second World War: Politics, Society and Remembrance, Four Courts Press (Portland, OR), 2000.

From Union to Union: Nationalism, Democracy and Religion in Ireland—Act of Union to EU, Gill & Macmillan (Dublin, Ireland), 2002.

(Editor, with Gary Murphy, and contributor)The Lemass Era: Politics and Society in the Ireland of Seán Lemass, University College Dublin Press (Dublin, Ireland), 2005.

The Emergency: Neutral Ireland 1939-45, Macmillan (London, England), 2006.

Contributor to books, including James Hogan: Revolutionary, Historian and Political Scientist, edited by Donnchadh O Corrain, Four Courts Press (Dublin, Ireland), 2001;A New History of Ireland VII: Ireland 1921-1984, edited by J.R. Hill, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 2003;Ireland, Europe and the Marshall Plan, edited by Till Geiger and Michael Kennedy, Four Courts (Dublin, Ireland), 2004; and An Affluent Society? Britain's Post War ‘Golden Age’ Revisited, edited by Lawrence Black and Hugh Pemberton, Ashgate (Aldershot, Great Britain), 2004.


Brian Girvin is a political scientist whose primary interests include Irish and American politics, nationalism, and the comparative analysis of politics in the contemporary world. In his The Right in the Twentieth Century: Conservatism and Democracy, the author visits a phenomenon that puzzled him during his youth as a political activist in the 1960s: the way conservative governments easily held power in many countries throughout the world during that time. Girvin explores the reasons behind the conservatives' successes and the overall role of conservative politics in liberal democracy. Writing in the English Historical Review, Alfred Gollin attested that the author "has produced a detailed and interesting work of political science," adding: "His work merits attention."

In his 2006 book,The Emergency: Neutral Ireland 1939-45, Girvin "has written a fresh and original history of Ireland between 1939 and 1945," according to a Read Ireland Book Reviews Web site contributor. The "Emergency"of the title is how the Irish referred to World War II. The book recounts how Ireland's Prime Minister Eamon de Valera declared Ireland "neutral" in the conflict and refused to join Great Britain in the battle against the Nazis, despite the fact that Ireland was still a member of the British Commonwealth. This isolationist policy not only angered British Prime Minister Winston Churchill but also U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. The author's interest in this topic of Irish neutrality stems from his interest in both individual and collective motivations in politics, which varied greatly throughout Ireland concerning the topic of neutrality. The author further notes that part of the decision to be neutral in the war can be traced to old hostilities to Great Britain and Irish national pride and identity. Nevertheless, Girvin points out that de Valera's declaration of neutrality was morally dubious. Tom Adair, writing on the Scotland on Sunday Web site, noted that Girvin presents "the story of a country locked into censorship, deeply conservative, in thrall to the powerful voice of the Irish Roman Catholic church, while still recovering unsteadily from its own bloody civil war of two decades earlier."

In the process of outlining Ireland's stance during World War II, the author discusses de Valera's motives for declaring neutrality and the resulting ambiguous relationship between Ireland and the Allies. Girvin also explores how de Valera's decision ultimately worked against his goal of creating a united Ireland and how some Irish citizens joined the British in the fight against the Nazis despite the declaration of their country's neutrality. Another aspect of Ireland's neutrality that the author writes about is de Valera's belief that neutrality would help change the British government's views and actions concerning Northern Ireland, while the Allies saw the move as a way to maintain the status quo since Northern Ireland had numerous ports used by the Allies during the war. Adair called The Emergency a "rigorous study [that] is a fresh, well-argued, agenda-setting discussion of its subject." A Contemporary Review contributor wrote that the author "has published a damning indictment based on extensive research and personal conversations but it is a record that needed putting straight."

Girvin is also the editor, with Gary Murphy, of The Lemass Era: Politics and Society in the Ireland of Seán Lemass. Daithi O Corrain, writing in the Irish Literary Supplement, called The Lemass Era "an engaging volume of eleven essays that assess Lemass's contribution to Irish political life in the period 1945 to 1973." Lemass was a politician in the Irish Republican Party called the Fianna Fáil, and he served as Ireland's prime minister from 1959 until 1966. The volume's various essays explore Lemass's political life and the impact he had on Ireland. For example, Lemass is generally credited with creating a new economic environment in Ireland, and one of the essay writers explores the policies created by Lemass that moved Ireland from being a predominantly agricultural economy to a more open economy that included free trade and the beginning of a movement toward integration with the rest of Europe's economy. Lemass is also known for his commitment to developing Irish industry, which led to an increase in industrialization and urbanization in Ireland and, as a result, an increase in prosperity that moved Ireland away from conservatism. In addition, Lemass was known for his dedication to creating new links between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland during the 1960s. Throughout the book, essay contributors noted how Lemass broke the mold of Irish politicians through his ability to adapt and change his politics and beliefs based on need and results. They also discuss how Lemass showed that a single individual can have a broad impact on a government and a country's politics. In their opening chapter to the volume, Girvin and Murphy note: "In less than a decade he achieved more than his predecessor did in forty years."



Girvin, Brian, and Gary Murphy, editors,The Lemass Era: Politics and Society in the Ireland of Seán Lemass, University College Dublin Press (Dublin, Ireland), 2005.


Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, February, 1995, R. Heineman, review of The Right in the Twentieth Century: Conservatism and Democracy, p. 1004; January, 2001, G. Owens, review of Ireland and the Second World War: Politics, Society and Remembrance, p. 971.

Contemporary Review, winter, 2006, review of The Emergency: Neutral Ireland 1939-45.

English Historical Review, April, 1997, Alfred Gollin, review of The Right in the Twentieth Century, p. 533; February, 2001, Tom Garvin, review of Ireland and the Second World War, p. 280.

Ethics, April, 1988, John Baker, review of Politics and Society in Contemporary Ireland, p. 639.

Historical Journal, June, 1991, K. Theodore Hoppen, review of Between Two Worlds: Politics and Economy in Independent Ireland, p. 505.

International Affairs, spring, 1989, Michael Cullis, review of The Transformation of Contemporary Conservatism.

Irish Literary Supplement, spring, 2007, Daithi O Corrain, "Mold Maker, Mold Breaker," review of The Lemass Era: Politics and Society in the Ireland of Seán Lemass.

Journal of British Studies, January, 2007, Fearghal McGarry, review of The Lemass Era, p. 238.

London Review of Books, October 5, 2006, Matthew Kelly, "Now Is Your Chance," review of The Emergency, p. 31.

Political Studies, December, 1989, James Douglas, review of The Transformation of Contemporary Conservatism, p. 687; September, 1990, Peter Mair, review of Between Two Worlds, p. 545.

Reference & Research Book News, November, 2000, review of Ireland and the Second World War, p. 23.


Pan MacMillan Web site, (October 22, 2007), brief profile of Brian Girvin.

Read Ireland Book Reviews, (October 22, 2007), review of The Emergency.

Scotland on Sunday, (March 26, 2006), Tom Adair, review of The Emergency.

University of Glasgow Department of Politics Web site, (October 22, 2007), faculty profile of Brian Girvin.