Caoimhín De Barra – The Irish Language: History and Place in Contemporary Irish Society

About Caoimhín De Barra

Caoimhín De Barra is a native of Ireland who joined the history faculty at Gonzaga University in the fall of 2018. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Delaware in 2014 and was previously employed as the assistant professor of Irish history and culture at Drew University in New Jersey.

Dr. De Barra’s main research interest is in the relationship between language and identity, as part of a broader focus on the history of nationalism. He has taught courses on British, Irish and European history, in addition to courses on imperialism and nationalism. His first book The Coming of the Celts, A.D. 1860: Celtic Nationalism in Wales and Ireland was published by the University of Notre Dame Press in 2018.

Aside from his research and teaching, Dr. De Barra is an avid sports fan. He played rugby for twenty-five years and watches Gaelic football, soccer, and football (the American kind!). He is also a fan of the ancient Irish sport of hurling, and coaches the Gonzaga hurling team. He is a passionate supporter of the Irish language and advocate for its revival. He also occasionally writes opinion pieces on the relationship between history and contemporary politics.

As a historian of languages and someone who learned Irish as an adult, Caoimh¡n De Barra offers both academic and personal insights into Ireland’s complex relationship with its national language. This book explains why most people don’t learn Irish at school, where the deep hatred some have for the language comes from, and how people who want to learn Irish can do so successfully. Drawing upon the history of other minority languages around the world, De Barra demonstrates why current efforts to promote Irish are doomed to fail, and proposes a radical solution for how to revive An Ghaeilge so it can again become the first language of the Irish people.

Who are the Celts, and what does it mean to be Celtic? In this book, Caoimhín De Barra focuses on nationalists in Ireland and Wales between 1860 and 1925, a time period when people in these countries came to identify themselves as Celts. De Barra chooses to examine Ireland and Wales because, of the six so-called Celtic nations, these two were the furthest apart in terms of their linguistic, religious, and socioeconomic differences.