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The Black and Tans: British Police and Auxiliaries in the Irish War of Independence, 1920-1921.

The Black and Tans: British Police and Auxiliaries in the Irish War of Independence, 1920-1921. D.M. Leeson. Oxford University Press. 00.00. xxi + 294 pages. ISBN 978-0-19-959899-1. Among the many myths in the Irish Republican canon is the violence of the Black and Tans, the special constables employed by the Royal Irish Constabulary, and the auxiliaries, both specially recruited British ex-soldiers brought in to help the RIC fight IRA terrorism. Prof. Leeson here takes a dispassionate look at these 10,000 men: were they the 'ex-convicts and psychopaths' of IRA legends. He begins with the historical background from Gladstone's first Home Rule bill and then moves on to the recruitment drives. From this he turns to a close study of the situation in West Galway between 1920-21 and then to a more detailed look first at the Black and Tans and then at the Auxiliary Division. He surveys the 'war' from the perspective of those fighting the IRA (an angle seldom considered before) and then examines police reprisals in response to IRA murders. He concludes that both the Black and Tans and the Auxiliaries were not 'the jail-birds and down-and-outs of Irish republican folklore' but mainly 'quite ordinary men'. He never seeks to excuse the illegal actions of either group or the London government's acceptance of such illegality and has some interesting reflections on how and why ordinary men commit atrocities in overheated situations. This study will displease more fanatical Irish nationalists because it helps to clear the air by separating ugly facts from still uglier fictions. (P.P.F.)
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Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Sep 1, 2012
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