“This study resource draws almost exclusively upon the collections of the National Library, including the Library’s rich holdings of books, newspapers, photographs, drawings, proclamations and, not least, manuscript material. In all, over 500 images have been selected for study and analysis.
Through the medium of contemporary documents, The 1916 Rising: personalities and perspectives focuses upon those who set the stage for the events of Easter Week 1916, the seven signatories of the proclamation, the others executed in the aftermath of the Rising, the casualties and the survivors.
We hope that you find this perspective on the Rising informative and a helpful addition to the resources available to both students and the general reader interested in this period in Irish history.”
“On Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, at a time when Ireland was an integral part of the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Ireland, seven Irishmen proclaimed the establishment of the Irish Republic, nominating
themselves as its provisional government. Together with 1,600 poorly armed followers, they occupied a
number of prominent buildings near the centre of Dublin, the General Post Office in Sackville Street (now
O’Connell Street) being designated as headquarters. The government of Great Britain and Ireland regarded
the insurrection as treason, all the more reprehensible as it came in a critical phase of the war then being
waged with Germany and her allies.
The response was immediate and decisive, the outcome being a foregone conclusion: by the following
Sunday close to 2,000 people—mostly civilians—had been killed or injured, the General Post Office and
various other buildings were in ruins, and the insurgents had surrendered. The seven signatories of the
Proclamation and eight others were tried by courts-martial and executed by firing squad. A sixteenth man,
Roger Casement, was tried in open court in London and hanged in Pentonville Prison.
The insurgents had no electoral mandate. Indeed, most Irish nationalists condemned the insurrection
as foolhardy in the extreme and downright criminal. Nevertheless, within two years opinion had shifted
dramatically: a substantial sector of the nationalist electorate now pledged allegiance to the Irish Republic
and honoured the Proclamation as virtually constituting the national constitution.
The morality and political legacy of the 1916 Rising have long been matters of debate. Some maintain that
the Rising was unnecessary and that a republic could have been achieved by purely democratic means. They
claim that the limited form of Home Rule already enacted (but suspended for the duration of the war) was a
basis for further advance in an evolving process. They deplore the loss of life and national trauma resulting
from the Rising, from the ensuing War of Independence (1919-21), and from the Civil War (1922-23).
They further argue that the Rising made the Ulster unionists more averse to sharing power with nationalists,
thus making the partition of the country in 1921 all the more inevitable. Others, however, believe that the
1916 Rising was the catalyst that inspired the country to abandon Home Rule as a worthless half-measure
and to strive for complete independence from Britain. These accord the 1916 leaders iconic status as the
founding fathers of the present Irish Republic.
In this documentary review of the Rising, the main focus is on the personalities involved—their personal
circumstances, their political formation, their perspectives, and their aspirations. As context is crucial to an
understanding of the Rising, the social, cultural and political background is also documented, the primary
focus again being on the personalities: Herbert Asquith (British prime minister), John Redmond (leader of
the Home Rule nationalists), Edward Carson (representing the Ulster unionists), and over a dozen others
who, mostly unwittingly, set the stage for the Rising in the previous decades.
As the documents are drawn almost exclusively from the collections of the National Library of Ireland
and so emanate from a particular range of sources, the perspective tends to be nationalist. In so far as
possible, however, the material is presented in a non-prescriptive manner, allowing people to make their own
judgements on the basis of the evidence.”