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The Irish Empire
The Irish Empire
Directors: Alan Gilsenan, David Roberts, Dearbhla Walsh
Genres: Educational, Documentary
NR     2001     4hr 10min

The five-part series Irish Empire, first broadcast on BBC Ireland in 1999, offers a compelling, contemporary historical perspective on the events, people, and influences that shaped the identity of Irish culture as it expa...  more »


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Movie Details

Directors: Alan Gilsenan, David Roberts, Dearbhla Walsh
Creators: James Mitchell, Ritchie Cogan
Genres: Educational, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Educational, History
Studio: Winstar
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color
DVD Release Date: 02/13/2001
Original Release Date: 02/13/2001
Theatrical Release Date: 02/13/2001
Release Year: 2001
Run Time: 4hr 10min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Sometimes Dry, Sometimes Interesting
John A Lee III | San Antonio, TX | 08/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"THE IRISH EMPIRE is actually a collection of 5 different but related programs which all look at the issue of the dispersion of the Irish throughout the world. All of the programs are well done but not all of them are equally interesting. The production values are high in each instance but that does not always translate into being compelling. It does, however, bring up some interesting ideas.

Like many people, I have a hard time thinking of the Irish without thinking of the Roman church. Indeed, many of the things we associate with Irish culture have their roots in Roman Catholicism. The program points out, however, that most people claiming to be of Irish descent consider themselves to be Protestants. This is not a result of Irish Catholics converting to the local denominations; the original emigrants were themselves protestant. It is as if a cultural minority has imposed its own view of identity on the rest of the Irish people. (This is an observation, not a condemnation).

I like things Celtic. That is why I purchased this program. Having done so, I do not regret it but neither did I overly enjoy it.

"The Scattering" is the first episode. It chronicles the Irish Diaspora and tries to give the reasons for Irish emigration from the homeland. These reasons are many and varied and stretch back much further than just the potato famine of the 19th century. Additionally, it tries to explain how these waves of emigration affected the psyche of the people both at home and in the new lands.

"Building the World" looks at what the Irish people did in the places they settled. Often, this involved labor organizing and political power. Examples of this from Barbados, the US and Australia are examined in detail. Also examined is the tendency for the Irish to work in construction, particularly in Britain. Through it all, wherever they go, they maintain their Irish identity even if they have not been to Ireland for years or even generations.

"A World Apart" is similar to the previous episode but focuses more on the stories of individual people rather the entire group. This is not to say that many individuals are examined; they are not. Rather, what is examined is how the fact of Irish emigration shaped the lives of Irish emigrants. This is particularly true in the case of women. In some instances, this episode seems to be something of a feminist manifesto but that misses the point. Many of the emigrants were women and they reacted to their situation differently than the men did.

"Keeping the Faith" looks at the religious aspect of being Irish. This, of course, means there is much to be said of the influence of the Roman church but what is surprising is that most Irish outside of Ireland are protestant and have been since their families emigrated. The program looks at how the church influenced the people and how those same people influenced the church. I think this is the best done of the programs.

"Dreams of Home" examines the concept of "Irishness" from the standpoint of those of the Diaspora and also those in Ireland. It questions what constitutes "Irish" in the minds of those people. In some respects, it is a question of memories. In others, it is of imagination.
Irish Empire
S. M. Pierrot | Olney, MD | 09/19/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Very interesting documentary, broken down into the different time periods. Well narrated with a good variety of photographs, interviews and film clips. We have enjoyed it. Veryt fair price too. SM Pierrot"
Excellent condensation of Irish diaspora around the world
Garrett J. Barry Jr. | Massachusetts | 04/07/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Concise, no nonsense story of Irish emigrant struggles and triumphs since the Great Famine.
Better than usual story of the Irish in Australia, which is often overlooked by historians who tend to highlight the American experience.

Another positive aspect is the Irish contribution to the professions, especially the teaching profession. Most analyists tend to show the Irish just as laborers or policemen, and ignore how many went on to college and entered the professions.

All in all, this series is as good or better than previous attempts to define the Irish, and should be must viewing for anyone serious about Irish studies."