Skip main navigation

Engaging with primary sources: ‘motivation to fight’

This article presents a list of primary sources with which the student can engage on what motivated people to take up arms.
© Trinity College, University of Dublin
Now it’s your turn to become the historian – we invite you to go and explore some of our primary sources which are available on the web.
The following primary sources relate to the video you have just watched. Don’t worry you don’t have to read them all!
We hope that having explored some of these materials, that you would use the comments section below to share your thoughts on the resources you found most interesting and engaging. Your fellow learners will benefit from reading what you found particularly noteworthy.
As I’m sure you are aware, these are just a sample of a much broader range of sources available and may complement or contradict some of the themes or ideas raised in this or other videos. These sources are here for you to draw upon across the course and will inform your contributions to course discussions.
For guidance on using primary sources refer back to Step 2.5.
Please note that some of the resources may not be optimised for mobile or tablet viewing, and may be best accessed through a PC or laptop.
In some of the final steps of this week, you will find a guide to further reading and a broad list of web resources relevant to this week’s theme.
There are several interviews completed with Great War veterans. In this series, the veterans consider their various reasons for enlisting. Browse through these extracts from the archives of Radio Telifís Éireann to get personal testimony on what drove soldiers to fight.
You can browse the primary evidence available at Bureau of Military History Witness statements and consider the various reasons given for joining the Irish Volunteers, the IRA or other organisations.
Also, consider the fluidity of mobilisation in either of the following Bureau of Military History Witness Statements:
What were the instincts that recruiting posters encouraging enlistment during 1914-18 appealed to at the time? Browse a range of recruiting materials in the Trinity College Dublin Digital Collections using the search term ‘recruiting’ and consider what it says about people’s motivations to fight.
Browse through some of the following British Pathé newsreels for another perspective:
Finally, consider the view expressed by this pro-Treaty handbill about those who were taking the anti-Treaty side in 1922.
What have you learned from these primary sources about the motivation to fight among people of this period? Has anything surprised you?
© Trinity College, University of Dublin
This article is from the free online

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

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education