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Online course

Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland's History 1912-1923

Explore the lives of men, women and children living through war and revolution and social changes that made modern Ireland.


  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No certificate


  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland's History 1912-1923

Why join the course?

How do people experience war and revolution? How does political change, violence, total war, affect life in its most basic ways?

Looking at Ireland through war and revolution, this course considers these and other questions about Irish life between 1912 and 1923.

The course looks beyond the familiar names and the famous faces - the traditional histories can tell us about them. Instead, it explores how the events that shaped the nature of modern Ireland - the Great War, the Easter Rising, the Irish war of independence and civil war - were experienced by the people who lived through them or in spite of them.

Through videos, assignments and discussions, through innovative approaches, this course introduces you to the history of Ireland in one of its most tumultuous periods. Considering the choices of those who fought in all sorts of ways for all sorts of causes, looking at the continuities of everyday life, this course allows us to question our broader understanding of these years.

Looking at the intricate and complex tapestry of lives lived, often in the midst of chaos, we might begin to ask different questions of these years. Do we understand war better if we consider the motivations that took a single soldier to the front, whether that front was in Flanders or Dublin? Does our sense of the entire period change when we examine general social and cultural trends or when we investigate their effect on private lives?

Join this course as we begin to consider these and other questions.

You can find out more about what to expect from this course in Ciarán Wallace’s post for the FutureLearn blog: “Do you know what’s going to happen tomorrow?

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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 secondsOrdinary people living through extraordinary times. Between 1912 and 1923, Ireland experienced radical changes that reverberate still. It was marked by revolution, guerrilla warfare, civil war, and partition.

Skip to 0 minutes and 29 secondsThe history of this period has been told, retold, and constantly contested. But this course will attempt to do more than just focus on the familiar dates and faces. You will encounter a different kind of war and revolution with multiple voices and multiple truths.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 secondsOver six weeks, leading historians in the field will challenge your understanding and certainties about what people thought they were fighting for. Why did people fight? What was won and lost, and by whom? What were the consequences for the ordinary man and woman? I think often when you see one historian in front of the camera, that impression is almost built in to whatever they say, that they have the right answer, and that there is only one answer. And in a sense, I think what this MOOC should be about is maybe being honest enough to say sometimes we often don't have an answer and we never will have an answer. What's actually exciting about it is the pursuit of the material itself.

Skip to 1 minute and 30 seconds Everybody experiences history, whether it's the prime minister or whether it's the street cleaner. History is happening to all of them. Nobody knows on Tuesday what's going to happen on Wednesday. And you have to recapture that kind of sense of being alive. The phases and changing nature of conflict will be examined. The influence of total war in Europe from 1914 to 1918, rebellion in 1916 and the British response, the IRA's ruthless guerrilla warfare, and the bloody civil war from 1922. Rich archive material will not only give you an understanding of events, but also the challenges faced by the historians working with often contradictory sources.

Skip to 2 minutes and 17 seconds The assumption that the lives of those of the great and the good and the powerful are in some ways more worthy of interest than the lives of ordinary people. And I think one of the reasons I got excited about getting into this in the first place is the opportunity actually to imagine ordinary lives in the past. The sources that we can use in the 20th century, I think the fact that people taking part in this MOOC can actually plug into those sources themselves and do things that couldn't have been done a few years ago. We can now approach history looking at original documentation and asking their own questions. Learn to engage with the past on its own complex terms.

Skip to 2 minutes and 53 secondsIrish lives in war and Revolution. What will you discover when political, social, economic, and cultural histories collide?

What topics will you cover?

Week 1: Introduction

The purpose of the introductory week was to allow learners to become familiar with the broad sequence of events unfolding between 1912 and 1923. It began to explore some of the conflicting interpretations that have arisen concerning the significance of this period.

Week 2: Fighting Lives

This week engaged with the violence and activism of the period at its most direct point by looking at those who fought and those who participated in a variety of forms. It examined what mobilised or moved people to campaign, to fight at various points across 1912-23.

Week 3: Political Lives

This was the period of major changes in the political and electoral process. We considered how political lives changed and radicalised across the period and what part politics played in ordinary people’s lives. Do historians pay too much attention to the violence, when the major changes were effected by political means?

Week 4: Economic Lives

The economic effects of these years are striking. War brought a boom to the Irish agricultural economy, while economic problems may well have explained why men continued to enlist when it was all too clear what the Great War promised. Considering economic lives across the period allowed us to consider what costs people were asked and prepared to pay for whatever their cause. It allowed us to consider who profited and who lost.

Week 5: Social Lives

This week considered some of the effects war and revolution had on Irish social life. How people experienced a variety of basic, social activities was shaped and changed by the events of these years. But lives continued to be lived in diverse ways in spite of what was happening, and this survival of many unexpected normalities featured in this week’s theme.

Week 6: Private Lives

This final theme encouraged learners to consider the individual consequences of war and revolution, which is where the costs of both are most obviously borne. It looked at personal loss; the toll fighting took; the personal prices people paid, but also the things that may have shaped their lives beyond war and revolution at this point.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

  • Identify the main chronological events of the 1912-1923 period in Irish history
  • View historical events from multiple perspectives
  • Consider history in a thematic way (fighting, politics, society etc.)
  • Analyse on-screen content (videos, articles, images) for evidence of the main themes
  • Interrogate digitised historical materials in other national and institutional repositories
  • Apply learning in written assignments and online discussions
  • Question your own understanding of history

Who is the course for?

A basic interest in Irish and modern European history as well as a curiosity about how conflict shapes civil society. No prior knowledge or expertise is required.

Who will you learn with?

Professor Ciaran Brady Dr. Anne Dolan Dr. Ciaran Wallace

Ciaran Brady is Professor of Early Modern History and Historiography, Anne Dolan is Assistant Professor of Modern Irish History and Dr Ciarán Wallace is in the Centre for Contemporary Irish History.

Ciaran Wallace

Part of the Academic Team on the 'Irish Lives in War and Revolution: 1912-1923' course.

Anne Dolan

Member of the academic team of Irish Lives in War and Revolution 1912-1923 MOOC.

Who developed the course?

Founded in 1592, Trinity College Dublin is Ireland’s highest ranked university. It promotes a diverse, interdisciplinary environment to nurture ground-breaking research, innovation, and creativity.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript £49.00

Statement of Participation £34.00

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join: