The historiography of twentieth-century Ulster and Northern Ireland has transformed dramatically in the last fifteen years; it is today, to borrow from Louis MacNeice, ‘incorrigibly plural’.1 Within living memory the situation was very different. Amid the bloodiest years of the so-called Troubles, the Canadian historian, D.H. Akenson, claimed that ‘almost no serious attention has been devoted to Northern Ireland by historians, although there have been significant works by social scientists and members of the bar’.2 If there was a lack of historical interest in modern Ulster, then a contributing factor must have been the fifty-year rule on state papers, a significant barrier to historical inquiry as then practised. When it was revised to thirty years in 1976, eight years after the rest of the United Kingdom, historians were suddenly awash with...

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