Kilmichael: The Life and Afterlife of an Ambush


Eve Morrison

April 2022

This is an incisive new account of the most controversial military engagements in the Irish War of Independence, featuring previously unpublished interviews with Kilmichael veterans.


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The Kilmichael Ambush of 28 November 1920 was and remains one of the most famous, successful – and one of the most controversial – IRA attacks of the Irish War of Independence. This book is the first comprehensive account of both the ambush and the intense debates that followed. It explores the events, memory and historiography of the ambush, from 1920 to the present day, within a wider framework of interwar European events, global ‘memory wars’ and current scholarship relating to Irish, British, oral and military history.

Kilmichael: The Life and Afterlife of an Ambush features extensive archival research, including the late Peter Hart’s papers, as well as many other new sources from British and Irish archives, and previously unavailable oral history interviews with Kilmichael veterans.

There has always been more than one version of Kilmichael. Tom Barry’s account certainly became the dominant one after the publication of Guerilla Days in Ireland in 1949, but it was always shadowed and contested by others, and in this book, Eve Morrison meticulously reconstructs both ‘British’ and ‘Irish’ perspectives on this momentous and much-debated attack.

Chapter One: Kilmichael in context
Chapter Two: Life and Death at a Bend in the Road
Chapter Three: Ruse de guerre or Atrocity? Early Press Coverage of the Ambush
Chapter Four: Barry versus Deasy: Two Roads back from the Brink
Chapter Five: Issues and Participants
Chapter Six: Tellings and Retellings, 1921−80
Chapter Seven: 28 November 1920
Chapter Eight: They Were All Revisionists Then
Chapter Nine: War by Other Means
Conclusion: Decommissioning Irish History


About the Author
Eve Morrison is an Irish historian specialising in the revolutionary period (1916–23) and its social and cultural memory. Both her doctoral research on the Bureau of Military History (Trinity College Dublin) and a postdoctoral fellowship on the Ernie O’Malley notebook interviews (University College Dublin) were funded by the Irish Research Council. From 2018 to 2021, she was Canon Murray Fellow in Irish History at St Catherine’s College, University of Oxford.

Praise for Kilmichael
Eve Morrison’s book is both informative and thought-provoking and there is plenty of material within its covers for readers to consider. For anyone interested in the Kilmichael ambush, its historiography and that of the War of Independence, it’s a ‘must read’. – Gerry White, History Ireland

‘Meticulous … impeccably balanced … sober and clear-sighted’ – Andrew Lynch, Sunday Business Post

Kilmichael represents a valuable and cogent demonstration of how the study of contested memory, in its complexity and contingency, has invigorated Irish historiography. At the conclusion of the decade of centenaries, this book reinforces how analysing contrasting retrospectives of the revolutionary decade enriches and enhances our understanding of difficult pasts. Eve Morrison’s book deserves a wide readership, spanning those concerned not only with what happened in west Cork a century ago, but with evaluating the disputed legacies of the Irish revolution.’ – Jack Hepworth, The Irish Story

‘This elegant, thought-provoking and courageous book by Eve Morrison is about much more than the ambush itself. … personal testimony gives the book a frisson not usual in serious academic works. And this is a serious academic work. Morrison sets Kilmichael in its context of time and place, national and international. She forensically examines the circumstances and outcome of the ambush. Atmospheric photographs help to set the scene.’ – Ian D’Alton, The Irish Catholic

‘Eve Morrison’s book deserves particular mention for her brave attempt at researching, analyzing and telling the story of what happened in West Cork over a century ago to a wider audience. – Gareth Prendergast, Journal of the Cork Historical & Archaeological Society

‘Forensically detailed.’ – Edward Burke, University College Dublin, War in History

Books of the Year 2022 – ‘Eve Morrison’s Kilmichael sifts early and changing accounts of a celebrated IRA ambush of crown forces in Co. Cork in 1920, and shows how divergences in what was remembered rrelate to temperamental and political tensions within republicanism.’ – John Kerrigan, Times Literary Supplement


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