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Peter Hart (born 11 November 1963) is a Canadian historian, specialising in modern Irish history.



Hart was born and raised in St. John's, Newfoundland. He studied for one year at the Memorial University of Newfoundland before moving to study at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He graduated from there with an Honours BA degree. Subsequently, Hart completed a Masters degree in International Relations at Yale University. He then moved to Ireland to do PhD work at Trinity College, Dublin. His thesis was on the Irish Republican Army in county Cork, which was the basis of his first book, "The IRA and its Enemies". After completing his doctorate, Hart accepted a five year teaching and research position at Queen's University Belfast. In 2003, having completed this contract, Hart moved back to Canada to take up the position of Canada Research Chair in Irish Studies at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. He is also an associate professor at Memorial University.


He has written several books to date on what he terms the "Irish Revolution" of 1919–23 (more commonly referred to as the Irish War of Independence 1919–21 and the Irish Civil War 1922–23).

The first of these books is titled The IRA and Its Enemies, Violence and Community in Cork, 1916–1923 (1998), a study of the organisation's social composition and actions in County Cork during the War of Independence. This book won several awards, including the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize (1998).[1][2]

Hart has since published British Intelligence in Ireland 1920–21: the Final Reports (2002) and The I.R.A. at War 1916–1923 (Oxford University Press, 2003), a collection of essays on various social, political and military aspects of the IRA in these years. They represent, Hart wrote in the preface, "sixteen years' work on the history of the Irish revolution." Peter Hart’s latest work is a biography of Michael Collins, titled Mick: the real Michael Collins (Macmillan, 2006).

Hart has also contributed to the volume, The Irish Revolution (2002)[3] , which is a collection of articles by various historians of the period.

Review and criticism

According to the Times Higher Education, Hart's work "offers a revisionist version of events that proved highly controversial."[1] However, Hart disputes that he is a "revisionist", calling it "pejorative labelling".[4] In his review of The IRA and its Enemies: Violence and Community in Cork, 1916–1923, fellow historian John Regan writes "Hart is neither a statist nor a southern nationalist, though the influence of both ideologies can be traced though his work."[5]

A number of the claims Hart has made in his books have attracted criticism from other historians and writers.[1][6]

In particular, two incidents discussed in The IRA and its Enemies have been controversial. One is the Kilmichael Ambush of November 1920, where Hart has written that the IRA column under Tom Barry killed Auxiliaries when they were wounded or prisoners [7]. This has been hotly disputed. Especially controversial is Hart's use of unverifiable anonymous interviews in his work.[8]. The second is the Dunmanway killings, in which ten Protestant men were shot in April 1922. Hart has written that the incident was a sectarian atrocity, "these men were shot because they were Protestant" [9] Again, this is heavily contested. Others have written that the men were targeted for their role as informers to British forces [8].

Hart stands by his work, stating that critics have failed to "engage with the book's larger arguments about the nature of the IRA and the Irish Revolution" [1] and believing they are closed to "a real debate where people concede some things and put forward others or are skeptical about weak points and accept the strong points."[6]


  1. ^ a b c d John Gill, Troubles and strife as IRA historian draws peers' fire, Times Higher Education, 3 July 2008
  2. ^ The Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize was created in 1977, in memory of Christopher Ewart-Biggs, British Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland, who was assassinated by the IRA in 1976.
  3. ^ Joost Augusteijn, The Irish Revolution, 1913–1923, Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. ISBN 0333982258
  4. ^ Peter Hart, Author's response: The IRA at War 1916–1923, Reviews in History, retrieved 29 August 2009
  5. ^ John Regan, Book Review: The IRA at War 1916–1923, Reviews in History, retrieved 29 August 2009
  6. ^ a b Diarmaid Fleming, 'War of words' over battle, BBC News, 26 November 2004
  7. ^ Hart, IRA and its Enemies, p34-35
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ Hart, p288, IRA and its Enemies

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