Hennessey, Thomas W.
HENNESSEY, Thomas W.
PERSONAL: Male. Education: Holds a Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Offıce—History Department, Canterbury Christ Church University College, North Holmes Road, Canterbury, Kent CT1 1QU, England.
CAREER: Author and educator. Canterbury Christ Church University College, Canterbury, England, currently professor of history. Previously taught at Queen's University, Belfast, Ireland, and served as a research fellow at Centre for the Study of Conflict, University of Ulster, Ulster, Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Peace Process: Ending the Troubles?, Gill and Macmillan (Dublin, Ireland), 2000.
SIDELIGHTS: Author and educator Thomas Hennessey is a professor of history and politics at Canterbury Christ Church University College in Canterbury, England, where his teaching responsibilities include British imperial and commonwealth history, nineteenth-century European history, and Irish history centering on the political troubles surrounding Ulster after 1800. Hennessey's primary areas of research interest are the Northern Ireland conflict, concepts of national identity in Britain, the Great Powers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the Northern Ireland peace process.
Hennessey's first book, A History of Northern Ireland, 1920-1996, addresses the political conflict surrounding the division of the country. Hennessey examines the situation from both sides, striving to achieve a balance between the Nationalist and Unionist points of view. Fred Barbash, writing in the Washington Post Book World, felt that Hennessey's efforts to avoid taking sides result in a book that is "numbingly neutral." In the book, Hennessey starts with an explanation of Ulster's origins following World War I and continues on through the failed Irish Republican Army cease-fire and the violence of the mid-nineties. A contributor to the Economist noted that "his history is, inevitably, overshadowed by the troubles of the past three decades, and this makes it a study of the gathering storm rather than a rounded account of the province." The reviewer went on to call the book "a closely argued account [that] offers not only shrewd analysis but also copious extracts from key documents, and some interesting statistics."
Many critics felt that Hennessey's book is well argued and well presented. Library Journal contributor Robert C. Moore wrote that the author's "fatalistic assessment of the future of the peace process is supported painfully well by his text," and John F. Quinn, reviewing for the Catholic Historical Review, commented that "Hennessey provides a painstakingly thorough and dispassionate chronicle of the successive crises that have plagued Northern Ireland." Quinn noted that "some readers may . . . be frustrated by Hennessey's writing," calling it "very dry reading at times," but added that "the substance of the work is such that readers interested in the history of Northern Ireland will find it well worth their time."
In Dividing Ireland: World War I and Partition Hennessey strives to prove his theory that the division of the nation can be traced back to a conflict of national identity. He explains that while Britain claimed to encourage an inclusive sense of nationalism that allowed a certain amount of individuality, Ireland cited the blatant discrimination toward them by other members of the United Kingdom and chose to stand apart. The division between Nationalists and Unionists was highlighted strongly at the start of the war when support of other nations potentially fell along lines of religious solidarity, Catholics supporting Catholic Belgium while Protestants favored Protestant Germany. D. George Boyce, in the English Historical Review, referred to Hennessey's work as "a more nuanced interpretation of the initial stages of the war, which are often seen as showing a real possibility of reconciling the two traditions in a common British-Irish enterprise."
The Northern Ireland Peace Process: Ending the Troubles? considers the complicated political situation in Ireland, chronicling the peace process from the early 1970s through the Belfast Agreement in 1998, and explaining the positions of the parties involved. Political Science Quarterly contributor Jeffrey M. Togman commented that "Hennessey's study is a history of elite negotiations, not of the cultural, social, or economic dynamics of the conflict. The author covers the give and take of multiparty bargaining with aplomb, describing each side's interests and strategies in their own terms." Togman went on to note that Hennessey's conclusions are slight in relation to the length of the volume, remarking that "it is disappointing that someone who obviously knows so much would offer so little," but overall called the book "indispensable for anyone interested in the Troubles." J. J. N. McGurk, writing in Contemporary Review, wrote that "this is important contemporary history illustrating that in the most notably turbulent corner of the island of Ireland, where so many contrary streams of history have converged, democratic peacemaking is not only possible but is the only alternative for the two communities to co-exist in the same political and geographical entity."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 1998, Mary Carroll, review of A History of Northern Ireland, 1920-1996, pp. 1197-1198.
Canadian Journal of History, August, 2001, Brian Jenkins, review of Dividing Ireland: World War I and Partition, p. 377.
Catholic Historical Review, October, 2000, John F. Quinn, review of A History of Northern Ireland, 1920-1996, p. 700.
Contemporary Review, June, 2001, J.J. N. McGurk, "Solving the Troubles of Northern Ireland," review of The Northern Ireland Peace Process: Ending the Troubles?, p. 369.
Economist, January 24, 1998, "Bloody Ireland," review of A History of Northern Ireland, 1920-1996, pp. 81-82.
English Historical Review, September, 1999, D. George Boyce, review of Dividing Ireland, p. 1018.
History: Review of New Books, spring, 2001, Todd Lee, review of A History of Northern Ireland, 1920-1996, p. 112.
Journal of Church and State, summer, 1999, James W. Vardaman, review of A History of Northern Ireland, 1920-1996, p. 613.
Journal of Modern History, June, 2000, Graham Walker, review of A History of Northern Ireland, 1920-1996, p. 524.
Library Journal, March 15, 1998, Robert C. Moore, review of A History of Northern Ireland, 1920-1996, p. 82; November 1, 1998, Robert C. Moore, review of Dividing Ireland, p. 109.
Political Science Quarterly, spring, 2002, Jeffrey M. Togman, review of The Northern Ireland Peace Process, p. 159.
Times Literary Supplement, September 25, 1998, Eunan O'Halpin, "Two States, Two Parts," review of A History of Northern Ireland, 1920-1996, p. 30.
Washington Post Book World, April 19, 1998, Fred Barbash, "All the Folly of a Fight," review of A History of Northern Ireland, 1920-1996, p. X6.
Canterbury Christ Church University, Humanities Department Web site, http://arts-humanitites.cant.ac.uk/ (September 23, 2004), "Thomas Hennessey."*