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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33, No. 5 22 April 1970

Out of The Lion's Paw

Out of The Lion's Paw

Ireland wins her freedom. By Constantine Fitzgibbon (with visual material collected by George Morrisson). Reviewed by Andrew Wilson.

The attraction of this book—and of all the books in the series—is the predominance of contemporary photographs, paintings, posters and cartoons which accompany a very concise historical text. The proportion is most commonly one column of text per double page of illustration. The effect is somewhat like a documentary film but with the commentary as an optional extra. The first time through the book, one looks at the photographs and their captions—with the sound of the text 'off' so to speak. The second time through one reads the text and finds that the illustrations are not keyed-in: there are no references to them in the text. Yet they provide a visual background against which the necessary recital of dates, figures, names and events can most effectively be set.

Image from Russia in Revolt

The text inspires confidence not just for a delineation of the main events but also for the choice of supporting matters of interest: the effect of personalities (plenty of portraits, although only two of Michael Collins), or the quirks of human behaviour and chance: the use of law books as sand bags in The Four Courts during the Easter Rebellion 1916. The failure of the raid on the Magazine Fort in Phoenix Park because the British Officer in command had gone off to the Races with the key to the armoury in his pocket.

Out of the Lion's Paw is mainly concerned with the narration of political and military events of 1916-1923, but it gives a brief summary of the situation from the Act of Union 1800, sketching in the background of the 1846 famine, emigration, the Land Acts and the formation of the Home Rule League in 1870.

However, the book really does justice to the cruel and bitter shabbiness of the Easter Rebellion and the civil wars which continued to 1923. 'A terrible beauty is born' said Yeats. But hopeless heroism and vicious reprisal are the more realistic testimony conferred on the period by the text and photographs of this very effective history lesson.

Russia In Revolt—1905: The First Crack in Tsarist Power. By David Floyd. Reviewed by Keith De Ridder.

Between 1905 and 1951, David Floyd held diplomatic positions in British embassies in Moscow, Prague, and Belgrade. Since 1952 he has been special correspondent on Communist affairs for The Daily Telegraph. Mr. Floyd's book, Russia in Revolt, is essentially concerned with one event, 'Bloody Sunday'. On this day in January 1905 the Tsar's troops massacred more than one thousand Russian civilians in what was the beginning of a clash which would ultimately lead to the 1917 Revolution. Mr Floyd describes the background to 'Bloody Sunday' and shows how it paved the way for further violence and protest.

The institution of the Tsardom and the character of Nicholas II are described lucidly and at length. Nicholas II was an important cause of the unrest in Russia which was felt at the beginning of this century. He was, Mr Floyd points out, too distant from the Russian people. The author draws attention to the fact that Nicholas II inherited a country which was economically unbalanced. Of a total population of 130 millions, 110 million Russians were impoverished and illiterate peasants.