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Mick: The Real Michael Collins [Paperback]

Peter Hart

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Book Description

Jan. 30 2007
Few leaders in history have been as mythologized as Michael Collins. Before his death at 31, he had fought in the Easter Rising, organized the IRA and out-spied British intelligence, negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty, and run the first independent government in Ireland. Peter Hart’s groundbreaking biography restores humanity to this mythical figure. Drawing on previously unknown sources, delving into Collins’s pre-revolutionary past, and assessing the methods—and the costs—of his rise to power, Mick reveals a man of often ruthless ambition, more politician than soldier, whose friendships went no farther than his interests. A work as thrilling as it is authoritative.

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From Publishers Weekly

Hart (The I.R.A. and Its Enemies) is to be commended for his research, but his revisionist view of Irish revolutionary Michael Collins (1890–1922) is fraught with misconceptions. For example, he describes how dispirited the "G" Division (or Special Branch, in charge of political intelligence) of the Dublin Metropolitan Police was in 1919, giving the impression that its members were harmless—and innocent. Yet later on he says the "Special Branch was indeed responsible for murder and torture." This is key to the legacy of Collins, which completely eludes Hart. Collins knew he could not win the revolution on a grand scale. Thus, the battle for Ireland's freedom would come down to an event known as "Bloody Sunday." On November 21, 1920, agents of Collins's infamous Squad assassinated 14 British secret service agents in one morning. Hart dismisses the importance of Bloody Sunday—he gives it two pages— as a messy, almost fruitless endeavor. But the Fenian math is irrefutable: 700 years of British occupation ended within 54 weeks of Bloody Sunday. Hart has an irritating way of inserting himself into the biography, throwing in asides that only lessen the effect of the narrative. This book is best utilized after reading the outstanding biographies of Collins (such as Tim Pat Coogan's Michael Collins), which allow the reader to at least put Hart's assumptions into proper historical perspective. Map. (Feb. 20)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A triumph . . . Insights abound . . . Reads like a le Carre thriller. (The Irish Book Review)

This is the book that will unquestionably be the starting point for all future reflections on Collins. (The New Republic)

[Hart] succeeds in demystifying a legend. (The Boston Sunday Globe)

A fine biography . . . written with immense verve. (The New York Times Book Review)

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Amazon.com: 2.5 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Fails to convey Collins' achievement context May 14 2006
By Michael Robinson - Published on Amazon.com
As prior commentators have noted, Hart has a grasp of the detail of Collins early years and London life greater than any that has appeared in print. Hart's point of view is clear; Collins was power hungry, manipulative and driven - is any successful politician not! His enormous administrative skill, particularly in a person with little forma education, Hart dams with the feint praise that Collins was perhaps better suited to be a skilled auditor and accountant than politician and statesman. In Hart's account what fails to be made clear, apart from just context, is the energy and organizational abilities of the man in running successfully the multiple interlocking organizations that he created from almost nothing in circumstances post the Easter Rising that were far from ideal and riven with factional disputatiousness; in the twentieth century revolutionary and insurrectional logistics have not been easy for even the great powers with infinite resources to manage with any degree of success. Most of all, Hart does mention en passant but fails to convey any understanding of overall context, either in the narrow sense of the various groups who required managing; the chaos created by the troubles; or the wider British domestic and imperial politics. A work that contains much factual information but fails as a biography to convey anything of Collins' achievement understood in the context of his origins or his times.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed Aug. 2 2006
By Maire Collins - Published on Amazon.com
Having studied this period of Irish History intensely I looked forward to this new contribution to the War of Independence/Civil War history. Within a few pages I discovered that I had purchased a book whose author seemed bent on destroying the reputation of a man who nearly singlehandedly turned the course of Irish history (and indeed world history). No dig is left undug and no innuendo is too low in this corrupted work. Although there are factual tidbits thrown in, they are not consequential. If you have an interest in this book borrow it. Do not pay good money to an author who would desecrate the memory of a great leader. By all means read it if you must, but read other works by Coogan, Forester, O'Connor, MacKay, Nelson and even Beaslai to inform yourself lest you be taken in by this unbalanced author. This book will soon relegated to the trash bin where it belongs.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Good title for a bad book Sept. 12 2006
By Sinead de Burca - Published on Amazon.com
Hart takes simple statements and events and interprets them to mean what he appears to want them to mean, interpretations that are very often quite a stretch with little, if any, sense of historical context taken into consideration. The book is interesting at times but more speculation than fact. While reading "MICK" I had the constant feeling that the author had an agenda, so much so that it became annoying, as though I were reading not a biography but propaganda.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad history Nov. 21 2006
By Chesapeake - Published on Amazon.com
It is difficult to see why Hart inserts himself so much into the text of this book until the reader realizes that Hart seems to want to get to a point and seems to be mindless about how he gets there. For example, he tries to give an impression that the police were innocent and at the same time admits that "Special Branch was indeed responsible for murder and torture." Far from viewing him as merely another revisionist I was left with the impression that Hart has an old imperial view of history - pro British - and fails to see the actual basis of what was actually going on in the Irish war of independence. The important issue is not who was the more violent but what were the actual issues, political and social that were involved. I would not recommend this book to anyone who wants an understanding of the period and what shaped the times. Better take up the Tim Pat Coogan book on Collins.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hated it!! June 19 2006
By Rachel Schweissinger - Published on Amazon.com
Hart spends all his time trying to deconstruct the memory of Michael Collins. I couldn't stand it. For anyone looking for the "real story," stick with Coogan or Mackay. But leave this trashy book alone. Collins never set out to be a hero. He was simply a man who made the best of some really difficult times in the only ways he could. I think it is unfair to hold him up with some of the other great men of the 20th century. The man was not a saint and that's a fact, but leave The Big Fella alone!!

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