An uncomfortable look at how Celtic culture was co-opted

An uncomfortable look at how Celtic culture was co-opted
Douglas Hyde (centre, with Eamon de Valera and Sean T O’Kelly): spoke of the necessity to ‘de-Anglicise’ Ireland in 1882 Pic: Getty

When Harvard University sent an archaeological mission to Ireland in the 1930s to determine Ireland’s racial and cultural heritage, it was socially and politically important to rich Irish Americans

HISTORY: The Quest for the Irish Celt: The Harvard Archaeological Mission to Ireland, 1932–1936, By Mairéad Carew, Irish Academic Press, €24.95

The word “Celtic” has attracted so many romantic, mythical connotations over the past century, powering a mini-industry of singing tenors, homespun philosophers and spiral-obsessed artists, that is hard to remember how, in 19th-century Britain, it was often a term of abuse, with magazines such as Punch presenting the Irish as the “white negro”.

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