UNE historian Eric Zuelow's new book 'Making Ireland Irish' documents relationship of Irish tourism and national identity

April 12, 2009

Emerging from the dark shadow of the Irish civil war in the early 1920s, a small group of tourism advocates, inspired by tourist development movements in countries such as France and Spain, worked tirelessly to convince their Irish compatriots that tourism was the secret to Ireland's success.

Over time, tourism went from being a national joke to a national interest. Men and women from across Irish society joined in, eager to help shape their country and culture for visitors' eyes. The result was Ireland as it is depicted today, a land of blue skies, smiling faces, pastel towns, natural beauty, ancient history, and timeless traditions.

In his new book, Making Ireland Irish: Tourism and National Identity since the Irish Civil War (Syracuse University Press), Eric G. E. Zuelow, University of New England assistant professor of European history, draws upon an extensive array of previously untapped or underused sources to explain how careful planning transformed Irish towns and villages from grey and unattractive to bright and inviting destinations, while sanitizing Irish history to avoid offending Ireland's largest tourist market, the English; how new family friendly festivals and events filling the tourist calendar today supplanted traditional rural fairs revolving around muddy animals and featuring sexually suggestive ceremonies.

By challenging existing notions that the Irish tourist product is either timeless or the consequence of colonialism, Professor Zuelow demonstrates that the development of tourist imagery and Irish national identity was not the result of a handful of elites or postcolonial legacy, but rather the product of an extended discussion that ultimately involved a broad cross-section of society, both inside and outside Ireland. Tourism, he argues, played a vital role in "making Ireland Irish."

Reviews

In pre-publication reviews of Making Ireland Irish, John Walton, Leeds Metropolitan University, described the book as "an original and fascinating contribution both to the emergent history of tourism in twentieth-century Ireland, and to the negotiation of Irish identities..."

Kevin James, University of Guelph, Ontario, writes "Tourism was central to Ireland's frustrated quest for prosperity in the post-partition era. Charting the fortunes of the sector during peace-time and the war-time 'Emergency,' Zuelow shows, through impeccable research and with great theoretical insight, how the promotion of images of Ireland as a holiday-destination, and the pursuit of specific policies and development initiatives, were bound up in fractious international, national and local politics, and in contested efforts to formulate symbols of the Irish nation. This is a very readable and immensely valuable study of Irish tourism history."

James Silas Rogers, editor, New Hibernia Review notes that "This volume opens a new window on modern Irish history as it charts the planning decisions, the contesting agencies and factions, and crucially, the larger debates about national identity into which tourism planning inevitably led....This is scholarship at its most original and engaging."

Book Award

In May 2010, The American Conference for Irish Studies (ACIS) awarded the 2009 James S. Donnelly, Sr. Prize for Books on History and the Social Sciences to Zuelow for Making Ireland Irish. The book was also named Book of the Month for May-June 2010 by the British Scholar, an organization based at the University of Texas-Austin.

Eric Zuelow

In addition to his position as assistant professor, UNE Department of History, Dr. Zuelow is special graduate faculty at the University of Guelph, Ontario, and adjunct graduate faculty at Union Institute and University.

He is especially interested in the evolution of national identity in the British Isles and in the history of popular culture in Europe. He is co-editor of Nationalism in a Global Era: The Persistence of Nations (Routledge, 2007).

Dr. Zuelow is presently editing a volume tentatively entitled Touring Beyond the Nation (forthcoming from Ashgate); this book contains work by both established and up-and-coming scholars in the field. He is reviews editor for the Journal of Tourism History and is the editor/creator of The Nationalism Project, a leading website devoted to the study of ethnicity and nationalism in global perspective.