The afterlife of Michael Collins
: Commemoration, biography and historiography, 1922-1973

  • Conleth McCloskey

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Abstract

This thesis assesses the forces and influences that shaped and contested the posthumous reputation, or afterlife, of Michael Collins between the years 1922 and 1973, a key period in the consolidation of the Irish State. This era was characterised by war, reconciliation, peace, and the continuation of a range of political conflicts involving individuals and organisations which claimed the revolutionary years of 1916-1923 as a source of legitimisation.

Collins held various key positions within the Irish revolutionary movement. These included: IRA Director of Intelligence, Minister of Finance, Chairman of the Provisional Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Irish Free State’s National Army. The political and psychological tensions that arose as a result of the Treaty caused intense controversy and led to the Irish Civil War which claimed the life of Collins. Now, approaching both the centenary of his death, and the fiftieth anniversary of the most violent year of the Northern Irish Troubles, the popularity of Collins has seemingly withstood the test of time. But to what extent was his posthumous reputation contested? What does the nature of debates surrounding Collins indicate about post-revolutionary attitudes towards conflict and reconciliation at all levels of Irish society? To analyse these questions, this thesis will focus on the themes of commemoration and political representation, biography, and historiography.

Thesis embargoed until 31 December 2026
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Date of AwardDec 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorMarie Coleman (Supervisor) & Fearghal McGarry (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Michael Collins
  • afterlife
  • Mnemohistory
  • cultural memory
  • commemoration
  • political representation
  • The Irish Revolution
  • reconciliation
  • biography
  • historiography

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