9 February 2016
The Bodleian Libraries is marking the 100th anniversary of Ireland's Easter Rising with a special display exploring this pivotal event in Irish history.
The small, free display runs 1 February-3 April in the Proscholium in the Bodleian's Old Schools Quadrangle.
The Easter Rising took place during Easter Week in 1916, when armed men and women seized key buildings in the centre of Dublin and proclaimed an Irish Republic, taking the British government by surprise in the midst of the First World War. The Bodleian's display draws on the Libraries' extensive collection of contemporary political and literary archives. These include the private papers of the Prime Minister H H Asquith and key personnel in the Irish administration in London and Dublin in 1916. The display also features letters from Irish poet W B Yeats and Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw.
'The display reveals the immediate reactions to the Easter Rising, ranging from fascinating eye witness accounts from ordinary citizens to the personal and professional responses of government leaders,' said Mike Webb, Curator of Early Modern Archives and Manuscripts. 'It also features commemorative books and pamphlets showing how the rebellion has been remembered from its inception right through to this centenary year.'
Visitors to the display can read Dublin residents' minute by minute accounts of the uprising that were phoned into the Dublin Metropolitan Police and see Irish citizens' handwritten letters that describe the 'awful nightmare' in Dublin and the 'sad hearts everywhere.' Asquith's letters to his confidante Sylvia Henley reveal his private perspective on the Easter Rising including his surprise at this 'bolt from the blue' and his reflections about ordering the execution of Roger Casement, a British diplomat who was caught trying to supply arms to the Irish rebels.
The display, titled Easter Rising: Response and Reflections 1916-2016, was curated by two student curators Arabella Currie, a DPhil classics student at Balliol College and Jonathan Finlay, who graduated from the University in 2015 with an MSt in modern British and European History. The students took part in a 6-week long internship at the Bodleian's Archives & Modern Manuscripts Section last summer, where they selected materials for the display and also contributed to a related project called the Easter Rising 1916 UK Web Archive.
The Bodleian Libraries is collaborating with Trinity College Dublin and the British Library to create the Easter Rising 1916 UK Web Archive, an online repository of social, cultural, political, and educational web resources. Today, we rely on traditional paper archives to find out about history, but in the future archived websites will be an invaluable resource. This special Web Archive will provide important primary sources for the future, enabling critical reflection on the Easter Rising and the way it was interpreted and engaged with in 2016 through commemoration websites, online articles and comments, blogs and social media.
Members of the public can learn more about the Easter Rising 1916 UK Web Archive through a digital display that will be installed next to the Easter Rising display in the Proscholium 12 February-3 April.
The Bodleian is also hosting a special event on 12 February when His Excellency Daniel Mulhall, Ambassador of Ireland to Great Britain, will give a talk at the Weston Library titled Easter 1916: what happened, why and how did it change Ireland?