The Anglo-Irish Treaty


100 years ago today, the fateful Anglo-Irish treaty negotiations began at 10 Downing Street. Read our article to learn about its many controversies, what it actually achieved, and why it sparked not only the creation of the Free Irish State, but also a civil war.

Listen to our episode or read our article below

Setting the Stage

The Treaty is an incredibly controversial document for two reasons. First, it formally acknowledged partition (which was official British policy by 1921) while turning Ireland into a dominion (NOT an independent state) and required an oath to the king. Second, it triggered a civil war that took many of Ireland’s best and brightest.

While the Treaty was the spark, I would argue a split (if not a civil war) amongst the Republican forces was inevitable. As we discussed elsewhere on this blog and in my podcast, tensions were high amongst IRA forces and command, heightened by the brutality of the war and the return of Eamon DeValera from the United States.

While he was fundraising in the United States, DeValera missed most of the war and was blindsided by what awaited his return. The movement DeValera helped create was no longer recognizable to him nor did he fully understand the rules of they war they were fighting, believing that the assassinations and ambushes were detrimental to the IRA’s cause and they should fight more traditional battles. He was also dismayed to see how much power gathered by the military side and worked hard with Minister of Defense, Cathal Brugha, to reassert the Dail’s power-as well as his own.

This, seemingly, brought him onto a collision course with Michael Collins (a man who also disliked being held accountable by another-no matter how much he respected DeValera). DeValera furthered strained that relationship by trying to send Collins to America in January-a command Collins flatly refused and DeValera dropped. Yet, DeValera entered negotiations confident and seems to have believed it was his moment to solidify the fact that he, DeValera, was the leader of Ireland.

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Episode 17-the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty

In today’s episode we discuss the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, including the many controversial decisions made by DeValera during the Truce, the struggle Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Michael Collins, and Arthur Griffith faced from internal and external stakeholders during the negotiations, and the tragic fracture that occurred within the Irish people after the Dail approved the Treaty.

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Episode 14-Northern Ireland and the Irish War of Independence

Episode 14-Northern Ireland and the Irish War for Independence

Today we discuss Northern Ireland and the role it played during the Irish War Of Independence, discussing figures such as James Craig, Edward Carson, and David Lloyd George.


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The Republic: the Fight for Irish Independence by Charles Townshend, 2014, Penguin Group

Fatal Path: British Government and Irish Revolution 1910-1922 by Ronan Fanning, 2013, Faber & Faber

Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion by Charles Townshend, 2015, Penguin Group

A Nation and Not a Rabble: the Irish Revolution 1913-1923 by Diarmaid Ferriter, 2015, Profile Books

Review for Fatal Path

Fatal Path: British Government and Irish Revolution 1919-1923 by Ronan Fanning, Faber and Faber, 2013


A light and easy read about the British perspective during the Anglo-Irish War. I greatly enjoyed this book. Since I normally read about the conflict from the side of the IRA/Irish Nationalist’s, this book was enjoyable and provided needed context for the British reactions to the Irish rebels. Fanning is a strong writer and takes the minutia that is British parliamentary politics and make it easier to understand as well as interesting.

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Book Review: A Peace to End all Peace

A Peace to End All Peace: the Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin. Published by Owl Books 2001


This is one of those books that everyone reads for a foundational knowledge about the Middle Eastern policy during WWI. It is a well-researched and well written book that is an easy and quick read, packed with a ton of information. Like one of my other favorite books: Dreadnaught written by Robert K. Massie, this book focuses on the British war efforts. However, unlike Dreadnaught, this book only focuses on the British war effort. Fromkin writes in the preface, that that was intentional, and while it provides a focused narrative, it doesn’t capture all the nuisances of the Middle Eastern theater. It also obfuscates the role Russia played in shaping the war effort. It also doesn’t make much of an effort to explain the Turkish policy. This is a good book to start if one wants an entry point into the mess that is WWI’s Middle Eastern Front, but it needs to be read along with other books to provide a more holistic and in depth understanding of the war.

That being said, Fromkin does a fantastic job highlighting the inefficiency and stupidity behind the British war efforts. They entered the region without a clear plan on what they wanted from the region and once their forces were trapped in the Middle East, they had no idea how to win or what winning entailed. The War Office, under Kitchener, wanted to create a hands on empire while others wanted a loose confederacy of British states, ruled by locals, but modeled on British officers. Then there were others, like T. E Lawrence one could argue, who took advantage of a situation they were thrust into to their own benefit, altering a region in ways they couldn’t understand.

The British launched the Gallipoli campaign because they were terrified of Russia being pushed out of the war by the Turkish and because they underestimated the Turkish war effort. They thought it would be an easy victory that could distract from the disaster that was the western front. McMeekin, author of The Ottoman Endgame, does a fantastic job describing the true role Russia played in the Gallipoli campaign, while Fromkin only touched upon it. McMeekin also spend far more time explaining the role Russia played in constructing the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

Read my review of The Ottoman Endgame here

Fromkin, however, provides the necessary analysis of the interpersonal politics of the British war effort. Like Massie, Fromkin understand people and psychology, and does an indepth analysis of the officers who surrounded Kitchener, the Indian Office, and the War Department as well as the mercurial nature of men like Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George. Fromkin also does a decent job balancing the many countries involved in the war, dedicating times to small offenses such as Dunsterforce campaign in Central Asia while keeping the bigger picture in view. He even took time to briefly explain what was going on in the British home front to explain some of the policy decisions the British made.

To learn more about the Dunsterforce campaign, watch this Great War episode

Overall, while the book only focuses on the British perspective, it is a great and indepth overview, providing a good foundation to a very conflicting and confusing front. But it needs to be supplemented with other books.