Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Bureau of Military History

The Bureau of Military History was established in January 1947 'to assemble and co-ordinate material to form the basis for the compilation of the history of the movement for Independence from the formation of the Irish Volunteers on 25th November 1913, to the 11th July 1921.' It contains 1773 witness statements, 334 sets of contemporary documents, 42 photographs and 12 voice recordings.

The Bureau of Military History collection was closed to the public until recently and when I was writing history we were continually complaining about this. It is now open to the public and I've seen the statements from Sligo participants. They are somewhat disappointing, in general short, carefully composed, lacking detail. Most finish with the Truce so no Civil War details are included.

On the other hand it's great that someone decided to collect these statements and they provide a very good basis for writing a history of the period. These statements are available in the Military Archives, copies are in the National Archives. The index is available online and pdfs of particular statements will be emailed by the Military Archives on request.

Even more useful are the interviews the famous Republican activist and writer Ernie O'Malley carried out with survivors in the early 50s. These are preserved in the UCD Archives. The main problem with them is O'Malley's handwriting, very difficult to decipher.

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