Covering the period from the Armistice to 1939, the book examines the experiences of Irish soldiers who had fought in the British army in the First World War on returning home to what became the Irish Free State. At the onset of the War, southern Irishmen volunteered in large numbers and marched off accompanied by cheering crowds and the promise of a hero’s welcome home. In 1916, while its soldiers fought in the British army, Ireland witnessed an insurrection against British rule, the Easter Rising. Ireland’s soldiers returned to a much-changed country, which no longer recognised their motives for fighting and which was at war with the country in whose army they had served. It has long been believed that the returning soldiers were subject to intimidation by the IRA, some killed as a retrospective punishment for their service with the imperial power, and that they formed a marginalised group in Irish society. Using new sources, this enlightening book argues otherwise and examines their successful integration into Irish society in the interwar years and the generous support given to them by the British Government. Far from being British loyalists, many served in the IRA and the Free State army, and became republican supporters.
A very timely subject for study based on extremely impressive archival research.
Marie Coleman, Queen's University Belfast
Paul Taylor's Heroes or Traitors? is an incredibly important book. In the scale of his research he has gone very far beyond the scope and depth of previous studies to produce a volume which will change our view of how First World War veterans fared in the south of Ireland.
[Taylor] poses important questions about the role historians and journalists can play in creating a false public consciousness, even a guilt complex, about the past.
Pádraig Yeates, Dublin Review of Books
Taylor's study is to be congratulated for bringing this timely topic to light, and it is no criticism to suggest that his work brings many more questions to the fore. Taylor's work will be considered as the foundation for this future research to build upon.
Michael Robinson, Liverpool Postgraduate Journal of Irish Studies
Liverpool Postgraduate Journal of Irish Studies
It has become commonplace to suggest that Irishmen who fought in that war were forgotten and that on return to Ireland many of them were persecuted. Paul Taylor’s Heroes or Traitors is a welcome corrective to that narrative.
Irish Economic and Social History
This is an important contribution to the study of post-World War I Ireland. The author argues strongly that the returning ex-servicemen did not face violence, persecution and social exclusion because of their service, and counters the previously accepted view about the treatment of these men. In so doing Taylor presents a more nuanced understanding of how these men were treated, and his book is a substantial contribution to the debate. It is difficult to argue with his conclusion – they were neither heroes nor traitors.
Patrick McCarthy, Irish Sword