21 August 2022
By Tom Collins
The National Archives in partnership with the Royal Irish Academy publishes new book on the working diaries of Michael Collins
From 1918 to 1922 Michael Collins kept working diaries of his busy revolutionary life. They are a collection of hurried notes, necessary lists, names and appointments, things to do, and things not done. They are a record of his long working days, and they got him to where he needed to be on time.
In this book, ‘Days in the Life, Reading the Michael Collins Diaries 1918-1922’, Michael Collins’s biographers, Anne Dolan and William Murphy, capture the nature of this new Collins source. They reflect on how the diaries change what we already know about him, and the different ways they challenge us to think about his life.
The diaries begin with Collins a revolutionary among many; they end in 1922 with Collins as the most powerful figure in Ireland. They begin with Collins a single man; they end with him about to be married. The authors present thematic reflections on what the diaries reveal of his transformed life.
Echoing the content and the texture of the diaries, the mix of the purposeful and the random that are days in a life, this book uses the diaries to consider critical moments in Collins’s revolution. Because they are also the diaries of his everyday life, the book examines very particular episodes, the curious and ordinary entries, which allow us to see Collins from more angles than before. Rather than offering the final piece that will solve the Collins puzzle, the diaries pose new questions to be asked.
Speaking about the release of the book, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media Catherine Martin, said:
“I am delighted to support the release of this new book under the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 Programme to mark the centenary of the death of Michael Collins in August 1922. It is a special book based on diaries never previously seen by the public.
I was honoured to be present at the birthplace of Michael Collins at Woodfield, Cork last November when the diaries were handed over to the National Archives by the family of the late Liam and Betty Collins, nephew of Michael Collins.
In the intervening months, the National Archives has worked hard to conserve and digitise all five diaries thereby ensuring their long-term preservation.
In partnering with the Royal Irish Academy and working with historians, Anne Dolan and William Murphy now bring this beautiful book which tells the story of an extraordinary life lived in extraordinary times to the public.”
Also speaking about the release of this book, Orlaith McBride, Director of the National Archives, said:
“It is very exciting to have the opportunity to introduce Michael Collins’s diaries to a wider public and to begin a conversation about what they might mean and to contribute to what will undoubtedly be the collective effort of interpreting this new source.
The diaries, with their day-by-day insights into the last five remarkable years of his life, offer a compelling new perspective on the experience of revolution in Ireland.
We look forward also to presenting an on-site digital touchscreen which will provide access to the diaries, year by year, month by month, week by week and day by day, at the National Archives from September.”
Ruth Hegarty, the Managing Editor of the Royal Irish Academy, said:
“The Academy is delighted to partner with the National Archives to publish this book and ebook, which gives a new window onto Michael Collins’ life. Readers will see pages from the diaries for themselves, and can leaf through the records of the National Archives, and a wealth of other sources, guided by authors Anne Dolan and William Murphy.”
‘Days in the Life, Reading the Michael Collins Diaries 1918-1922’, is published with support from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media under the Decade of Centenaries 2012-2023 Programme.