Mick: The Real Michael Collins

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"Few people in history have been as mythologized as Michael Collins, and few have had as profound an impact on their country's history in so short a time as Collins had on twentieth-century Ireland. Before his death at the age of thirty-one, Collins fought in the Easter Rising, organized the I.R.A., and outspied British intelligence, negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and ran the first independent government of Ireland. To this day, millions revere him as the father of modern Ireland. Yet Collins was first and foremost a man who sought power and
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Overview

"Few people in history have been as mythologized as Michael Collins, and few have had as profound an impact on their country's history in so short a time as Collins had on twentieth-century Ireland. Before his death at the age of thirty-one, Collins fought in the Easter Rising, organized the I.R.A., and outspied British intelligence, negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and ran the first independent government of Ireland. To this day, millions revere him as the father of modern Ireland. Yet Collins was first and foremost a man who sought power and exercised it ruthlessly. More politician than soldier, he surrounded himself with followers loyal only to him. And his death left behind a troubled legacy: an I.R.A. he could not control, a Northern Ireland problem he did not solve and a civil war he could not prevent." In Mick, acclaimed historian Peter Hart explores Collins's life and asks what made him such an extraordinary and complex person. Drawing on previously unknown sources, Mick is the first biography to investigate Collins's life before he became a revolutionary and the first to take a critical look at his rise to power and its consequences. Authoritative and absorbing, it offers a portrayal of one of the most remarkable leaders of the twentieth century.
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Editorial Reviews

Denis Donoghue
Peter Hart's "Mick," a fine biography, concentrates on Collins's work, the tasks he took on for the associations he joined and ultimately for the provisional government: minister of finance, a job he carried out brilliantly; director of intelligence, the main source of his reputation as a hero, daring beyond description; and commander in chief of the army, in which he acted as if he had indeed an army to inspect in full order and battle dress.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Hart (The I.R.A. and Its Enemies) is to be commended for his research, but his revisionist view of Irish revolutionary Michael Collins (1890-1922) is fraught with misconceptions. For example, he describes how dispirited the "G" Division (or Special Branch, in charge of political intelligence) of the Dublin Metropolitan Police was in 1919, giving the impression that its members were harmless-and innocent. Yet later on he says the "Special Branch was indeed responsible for murder and torture." This is key to the legacy of Collins, which completely eludes Hart. Collins knew he could not win the revolution on a grand scale. Thus, the battle for Ireland's freedom would come down to an event known as "Bloody Sunday." On November 21, 1920, agents of Collins's infamous Squad assassinated 14 British secret service agents in one morning. Hart dismisses the importance of Bloody Sunday-he gives it two pages- as a messy, almost fruitless endeavor. But the Fenian math is irrefutable: 700 years of British occupation ended within 54 weeks of Bloody Sunday. Hart has an irritating way of inserting himself into the biography, throwing in asides that only lessen the effect of the narrative. This book is best utilized after reading the outstanding biographies of Collins (such as Tim Pat Coogan's Michael Collins), which allow the reader to at least put Hart's assumptions into proper historical perspective. Map. (Feb. 20) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
This enormous biography is interesting for two reasons. First, it provides a cool, unromantic look at the life of the young Irish revolutionary, and particularly at his gradual climb in the ranks of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) after the 1916 Easter Rising and at his decision to accept "the Treaty" that led to the independence of Ireland minus the Northern Ireland enclave. Hart, who teaches Irish studies at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, has used all available archives and has systematically separated the facts from the legend. Second, it is a study in biographer ambivalence. Hart's style is flat, like a police report, and shuns the eloquence that so often marked his subject's oratory. He makes valiant efforts to recognize Collins' strength, charisma, and decisiveness after a long period of deliberation and uncertainty. But he accuses Collins of not fully realizing "the uncontrollability of violence and its transformative power." Hart concludes that Collins was "the most successful politician in modern Irish history," whose triple legacy was independence, partition, and the IRA. It will be interesting to see how Hart's Irish readers react.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670031474
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/16/2006
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter Hart is the Canada Research Chair of Irish Studies at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the author of The I.R.A. and Its Enemies (winner of the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize) and two other books on modern Irish history.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Revisionist view of Michael Collins

    The anonymous review posted in 2006 is an assessment with which I concur, having recently read this book. One has the impression that the author has little sympathy with Collins or his aims, and even his admiration, when expressed, is distinctly tepid. Still it is very well researched and does offer some new insight into Collins's activities. The discussion of his financial abilities and accomplishments, and how he helped the revolution in this way, is valuable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2006

    Interesting, well researched but somewhat skewed

    Peter Hart's bilgraphy of the 'real' Michael Collins is very interesting reading and certainly cannot be accused of hero worship, although Hart seems to admire many of Collins' attributes. Unfortunately, it seems to be aimed at bursting the bubble of Collins' recently re-acquired status as a great Irish icon and to skew the facts in that direction. The research into Collins' background certainly is extensive and the picture of him as a volatile, charismatic and powerful leader is consistent with other more balanced biographies (Tim Pat Coogan's in particular). However, much is made of Collins as a 'ruthless' politician rather than a soldier or statesman and herein I think Hart's apparent bias gets in the way. I am sure he has read Collins' own writings about his hopes and concerns for his country and his letters to various people, including his fiancee, Kitty Kiernan, but Hart does not seem to see, or to want to see, the larger man reflected therein. However, if the reader has some background in the Irish history of the time (the final fight for independence from the British and the civil war that followed it), this biography will provide some new insights to be balanced with more even-handed biographies by other authors.

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