Sunday, 5 March 2017

WDF's Blog Has Moved! Go And Join The Party Elsewhere!

Hello history friend, and thanks for visiting this blog - unfortunately, we have lost our sovereignty and have since become a vassal state of the main website for the podcast, which of course you can find in the address by clicking here!

The new blog is called The Vassal State, and will essentially centralise everything to do with When Diplomacy Fails Podcast by putting all our stuff in one place, so I hope you'll look longingly back into the distance at this blog, and maybe read over some old posts, but then come and join us in pastures anew.

All being well, the new blog should serve as the place to be for the podcast, and should help ensure that WDF is not merely the place where the pen fails and the sword prevails, but that it is the place where history thrives!

See you there! :D


Sunday, 31 July 2016

WDF's Exciting New Direction and Zack's Great News

The last few months have been pretty darn stressful for me personally. Ever since I discovered I would be going to Cambridge I made it my mission to track down all the scholarships and funds I could, because I felt I simply had to go there, and there was no Plan B. When people would suggest a Plan B I would shrug them off; 'I can do this', I assured them, 'don't you worry!' But I did worry, I worried that I wouldn't get the funding, I worried that I would let people down, and I worried that it wouldn't be the right time in my life to undertake something as groundbreaking as a move to a new country at the beginning of a marriage, to start something difficult in unfamiliar settings.

This is what I was dreaming of...but sometimes dreams have to change

Turns out, I was right to worry. Cambridge, to put it simply, just isn't going to happen guys. I tried to be as positive and - some would say, naive - about it as I possibly could, but Cambridge just isn't within my price range at the moment, having unfortunately failed to acquire the necessary funds. After all that waiting, all that filling out application forms for scholarships, for the PhD courses and for other things that I never want to do again; after tracking down references, staying up late fussing over stupid menial things like where I would live in the UK or whether I could succeed, I am almost relieved to say that the whole process is over.

As bad as the news was, it is incredibly lifting to no longer have to wait on news that could make or break your future. Just being freed from that burden would be a cause to celebrate, even if that sounds somewhat morbid. Yet, I also have good reason to celebrate because I managed to get a new job! If you listened to the latest State of the Podcast Address then you will know this, but if you've come here to find out more, then you've come to right place!

The Leprosy Mission (TLM) is where I'll be working, and my official title is Researcher for Public Relations,Media and Programme Management. For this role my responsibilities will include:

i) assimilating information, trends and data in areas related to TLM’s work
ii) extract key facts, data and illustrations and to present them in user friendly ways to the communications team
iii) identify, suggest and plan opportunities for the presentation of key information
iv) draft briefing documents and other raw material for use by the communications team
v) manage the ready storage of and access to materials
vi) present and communicate material in effective ways

On top of this, I will work mostly from home, and I will be under the direction of the CEO regarding what to do next and when it must be done by. I compared it to researching for a book in the example of a history professor; the end result will be a body of work as in that case, but my work will directly impact the lives of potentially millions of people, and my findings and conclusions will arm the hard working and dedicated staff at TLM so that they are better equipped to reach out and deal with the problems that they are faced with.

The sad fact is that Leprosy is not eradicated, it has simply dropped off the public radar, but all this needs to change, and we can make it happen!

This all begs the question: TLM is a charity, right? So what kind of work do they do? Well, the specialist focus of TLM is on the alleviation of suffering (physical, mental, social, economic and spiritual) of people affected by leprosy and a range of other Neglected Tropical Diseases. TLM offers its essential services irrespective of race, gender, religion, political affiliation or any other classification that others may use to divide or discriminate with. It does, in short, incredible work, contacting and aiding only the poorest of the poor, and helping them based on what they actually need.

The disease maintains a terrifying reputation - despite the decline of it in the Western World

For over 140 years The Leprosy Mission has been the voice of those too poor or too marginalised to be heard. It has worked mostly under the radar to raise funds, tackle the disease where it resides, aid the people it afflicts and assist the communities and families in rebuilding afterwards. No longer will TLM's work go unnoticed though, because with an aim towards expanding in order to help out more individuals, TLM is aiming at reaching out to the Irish and World public through a series of campaigns for raising awareness and increasing the profile of the previously incognito charity. This is where I come in - I will be an integral part of making TLM known to a wider audience, so that this audience will spread the word, and more resources will then hopefully become available

Leprosy has a hideous effect on the nervous system and disfigures the digits of the human body, resulting in people being marginalised from their communities and excluded from their families.

That is in a nutshell what my job will entail, and what my position means for that organisation. If you'd like to learn more about The Leprosy Mission please visit their site:
If you'd like to learn more about my new job, please send me a hello and I'd be happy to give you more info.

The disease was reported in biblical times, and retains its awful impact on the population in the poorest regions of the world.


This development is of course a blessing, since it gives me something to sink my teeth into - with a much better salary and a number of professional prospects for me as time goes on. I'm by no means selling out to the man, but I am seeing that it is important to invest time and energy in a genuine plan, rather than a dream. Cambridge very likely still will happen, but for the moment I am very happy to make this job my own, and also plan for my marriage without worrying about money or where we'd live or how troublesome it'd be to live somewhere new at such an early stage in my life. It is not a no, it is simply a not yet.

I would like to repeat my thank you's once again to everyone that wished me well, and in particular those that donated their hard earned money to me. I hope you won't feel like your money has gone nowhere, since it has greatly helped and motivated me over the past half year, even if it won't be paying for my attendance in Cambridge. I will never forget the absolute outpouring of well-wishes and donations that I got from you guys when I found out I'd been accepted in January. While I am by no means giving up, I hope you will accept that postponing that dream makes sense for the moment.

So thanks for reading; as I mentioned also in the State of the Podcast Address, I will soon be releasing a new book and perhaps even a new show. Stay tuned for both those exciting ventures, but I would also ask you to support my ventures into YouTube as well by liking, sharing and subscribing to the show on YT. You can find the first episode below. At the mo, YT is on the backburner as I invest into other things, but it is denfinitely somewhere I want to go, so I hope you'll stay with me on it.

Other than that, I'd like to say a big thanks once again for welcoming me back to your ears. Soon we'll embark on an incredible Louis-filled journey together - see you there!


Saturday, 25 June 2016

WDF's FIRST EVER VIDEO! 5 Times Diplomacy Failed

Here it is!!! Our first ever video, and certainly not the last - please let me know what you guys thought, this took a lot of work, but I feel the end result was worth it!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

1916 And All That

It's been a long-ass road history friends. We've had emotional music, tense final moments and hopefully stirring examples of why one should always always refrain from plucking historical events out of the sky. 1916 was a personal journey for me, but it was also one of discovery, since I realised only half way in how strongly I really felt about my central thesis for the project. My central thesis, to refresh your memory, basically revolved around the fact that human life is more important than an idea, and that 1916 was wrong because the aura of the 'republican idea' has since been upheld as more important than the numerous lives lost since 1916 - be they during the Rising, the War of Independence, the Civil War or the Troubles.

Super handy map of the positions taken during the 1916 Rising. Note their spread out nature, later put down to lack of manpower, but which most historians put down to harebrained tactics nowadays.

The hardest part during this miniseries for me was trying to reconcile how upset I was at the way people view 1916 and how wrong it all was with the fact that Ireland should have been independent in 1916, and that Britain had no right to rule over her at all. At all. I tried to dress it up, I tried to make it seem like no big deal, but it was. Ireland was under foreign rule in 1916 - to state otherwise would compromise my claim that I am in fact a patriot and believe that Ireland is a nation, and has been for some time. What I learned though, was that reconciling the two objects - Ireland under foreign rule, and my hatred for the revolt which overthrew that foreign rule - wasn't as hard as I'd expected.

Augustine Birrell was Britain's man on the ground by 1916. As Ireland's Chief Secretary, he had been in place for over ten years by the time the rising broke out. In that time he had built up valuable connections with the likes of John Redmond, and had come to respect Irish customs. He appreciated the need to let the Irish be, and create their own cultural and linguistic organisations. He was the most notable political casualty of the Rising in Britain, but certainly not the last.
John Redmond, leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party since 1906 and its - in theory - most successful activist, since it was he who capitalised upon events in Britain to push through the Third Home Rule Bill in 1914, only to see it postponed by the outbreak of WW1.

Arthur Griffith, one of Ireland's political giants before the Rising, was the founding member of Sinn Fein in 1905 and a critical Irish politician in the years that followed. His impact on Irish history was overshadowed by the massive change which resulted in his party following the Rising, when the Sinn Feinn Rebellion transformed his movement from a small alternative political party to a revolutionary republican party.

Michael Davitt, former IRB member, founder of the Land League, friend of Parnell and all round important Irish guy. He was an example of the kind of man Ireland should have looked up in the 20th century. I still believe today that more people could learn from his example.

You see, historians often complain that we as modern day humans see things that happened in the past from our own point of view. When we do this, they claim, we also apply our own moral standards to their actions in the process, and this isn't fair. It isn't fair because we forget how many different pressures were acting on the individuals in question that we end up judging; we forget that their world was very different to ours. To me, the penny dropped when I realised something critical - perhaps the most critical thing that I realised during the course of this miniseries. I realised that I wasn't applying my own moral standards at all, I was merely echoing those of 1916, because in 1916, just like personally in my own mind right now, the 1916 Rising was an event that was wholly condemned, that is, by the majority of the Irish people.

Nobody would be able to say with a straight face that the Irish weren't treating woefully by the British at times. Here is a painting/sketch by Henry Doyle c.1868, depicting the leaving of Irish emmigrants for the new world, as they were forced to abandon their homeland for better opportunities elsewhere. Tearful scenes were inevitable, but those that left would make an indelible mark on the wider world, be it in culture, literature, architecture or science. 

William Butler Yeats, Ireland's foremost playwright and influential figure. His work 'Easter 1916', encapsulated everything that had occurred in the rising, from Yeats' own difficulties in reconciling it with his nationalism, to his personal abhorring of the violence therein.

Yeats c. 1900, painted by his father.

Such a fact jumps out at one from the pages and record of history, and it makes a lie of the modern claim that the rising freed Ireland from British tyranny. Even if Ireland became independent in the years that followed the rising, it did so at a distinct disadvantage, because its entire journey to independence after 1916 was completely unnatural - not only that, but it was totally unrepresentative of all the Irish history that had come before that. To summarise all that I've just said, my efforts to reconcile Ireland's justifiable call for sovereignty with my hatred of violence were made all the more easier by the fact that 1916 was condemned by the majority of people in Ireland in 1916. What that means is, I'm not applying my moral standards, I'm merely examining the evidence of the era and making a judgement based on that evidence; if Ireland as a whole would have condemned those that acted in 1916 for all the reasons that they did, then why shouldn't we?

Gladstone, depicted here looking over his shoulder as an armed, rough looking member of the Land League seems to threaten him with violence. Gladstone wasn't the only British politician to be lampooned by the Conservative Press in the late 19th century for failing to stand up for the aristocratic landowners against the farmers. The reality was, of course, such farmers held the moral high ground. It is highly likely that even if Gladstone hadn't been pressured by the grassroots movements that sprang up, he would have relented from the moral persuasions of their cause.

The rent strike launched by the Land League was a serious escalation of their campaign for fairer rents and an end to the absentee landlord system in Ireland would be its eventual result. Through the political process, and with the avid support of high profile Irish MPs like Charles Stewart Parnell and Michael Davitt, Ireland was able to advance itself towards prorgess and better lives for its people.

That, essentially, was how I reached the conclusions that I reached. It is far easier to argue in terms of moral principles when I know full well that these arguments would have carried weight in Ireland in 1916. Therefore, I instead was able to judge that Ireland has since been shaped not by the majority opinion, but by the minority. The violent revolutionary republicanism which for so long had been seen as the fringe view in Irish society was embraced in a rebellious Irish atmosphere post-Rising, because the British act of execution vindicated all that the rebels had said and done.

Big Jim Larkin's statue at the top of O'Connell Street is big enough to give one pause for thought. The problem is that though many may pass by it today, few actually understand the significance of the man depicted here or what he actually fought to achieve. They would be able to mention the name of James Connolly far easier, when it was Larkin who Connolly originally drew such inspiration from.

It was too hard to go back once the final shots were fired at James Connolly and Sean McDermott in mid-May 1916. With every bullet Britain had proved itself less tactful and more out of touch than anyone could have previously anticipated. It changed everything to see these men die in front of British bullets, and those that chose to sign the proclamation knew full well that it would. They knew that Britain, consumed by its war on the continent and unable to afford threats to its prestige or security, would take the harshest measures possible. The martyrs also understood that this would inspire Irish people to take up their challenge and renew the fight. To me this makes the actions of the rebel leaders doubly wrong, because not only were they prepared to launch a revolt that nobody wanted in the center of the capital, thus endangering Irish civilians, but they were prepared as well to doom their countrymen to a hopeless military goal of separation from the greatest Empire in the world at that time, through force of arms.

This monument to Parnell and Parnell Square are both the legacy of the tireless work of Parnell. Had he died by British bullets rather than illness caused by the stress and difficulties of his intense job, his statue may be bigger, his work more well known, and his life seen as more important. Instead his struggles have been overshadowed by the deaths of the martyrs, men who spurned Parnell's example and resorted to violence, rather than give Parnell's political legacy a chance.

This is why I have such a problem with how romanticised the lives and deaths of the martyrs now are. Had they really cared for Irish people, they would never have acted. You can make all the excuses you like for the need to place it in context, but what I learned from doing this is that the context says they were wrong. The context says that these rebels acted against the majority in the name of a hopeless goal that they knew could never be achieved, yet they set their nation up to achieve it, with every failed campaign and every wasted life that has been lost in Ireland since being on their hands. To this, many of my peers would passionately argue that the rebels had been brave, and that the British had been brutal.

Ireland's population since 1600. Note the extreme drop off after its peak in the middle of the 1800s. This was the famine, and it was from that Great and terrible famine that so much of Irish history was shaped.

To these quips I would say 'you're dead right!' but at the same time, such facts were also well known before the rising as well. It was perfectly appreciated before the rising ripped through Dublin that a secret organisation containing hardened Irish republicans existed - they had their own newspaper network and would have had their share of renowned figures after all. The whole reason Irish politicians had for so long endured the shortcomings of the Westminster system was because they were making the best of a bad situation - British rule may have been illegitimate and it may have been based on force, but Irish MPs appreciated at the same time that to resist such a system in kind was pointless - what could the less than 4 million Irish do against an Empire in excess of 100 million? Militarily, nothing, but politically, a great deal.

The reality today is that Ireland is split between the North and the rest. The North contains individuals who wish to remain part of the United Kingdom, and thus London has since 1920 continued to administer this part of the island of Ireland separately from the rest. With the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, it was agreed that only through the demonstrated wish of the majority in the North, could this status quo change, and Ireland be reunified. Debates rage on today over whether such an eventuality could ever take place; whether the weight of history will prove too great or whether common bonds and aims will win out. Whatever happens, violence will thankfully hold no say in the deliberations that precede or follow such events. Ireland seems to have, mercifully, left that part of its past behind her, and hopefully for good.

British rule was wrong, it was unfair and contradictory for a British Empire that liked to think and present itself as a morally principled and liberal society, where men were to be treated equally and slavery was to be abhorred. I have stated such things till I'm blue in the face, but where both my peers and some historians, and many public figures have then gone on to present the 1916 Rising as a response to this, I would stop. I would stop because if we continue and say that Ireland in 1916 was merely reacting to the unfairness of British rule, that it was merely freeing itself from the chains of oppression, then we perpetuate a lie. If this line of reasoning were true, then it wouldn't have been a Rising, but a revolution that took place in 1916, and Irish people wouldn't have joined the British Army in droves at the outbreak of war in 1914. Irish people wouldn't have invested their faith, time, energy and other significant resources into the political process.

Edward Carson's Solemn League and Covenant in 1912 demonstrated that a great divide existed in Ireland over the nature of its identity. Whether it was to be London or Dublin that determined the island's future, furious debate could not decide. From the events of 1912 did the eventual partition of Ireland spring, but historians have since argued both for and against the idea that 1916 ensured partition took place. We can never know for sure, but without 1916 the region certainly would never have played host to the Troubles - the horrendous tit for tat series of killings, bombings and rampages which pitted Unionist against Republican, with everyone else caught in between.

They wouldn't have seen themselves as part of the Empire. They wouldn't have desired Home Rule, but they did. And they did because they were realistic, and they viewed the fringe section of the country that advocated a violent struggle to achieve Irish independence with utter scorn, since they knew where such ideologies had led Ireland in the past - look at the 1798, 1803, 1848 or 1867 revolts for examples. The point is, just like we can argue and say that British rule was historically unfair and unjust in Ireland, we can also argue with significant evidence to back us up, that Irish people as a whole supported and invested their time into the curious Anglo-Irish arrangement that existed by 1916. Consequently, this meant that Irish people, whether we like to admit it or not, were largely content to remain within the British Empire, or at least were willing to make use of the political process to bring about change in Ireland - as they had done for the past three generations.

The ruined corner of Sackville Street just after the Rising. Note Nelson's Pillar in the background.

When we look back at Ireland in 1916, we are doing so with the benefit of 100 years of history and over 80 years of legislative independence. Our views are thus molded by the perception that we believe Ireland shouldn't have taken part in the Westminster system or should have launched a revolution to free itself, but this is a view which is both a-historical, and morally wrong. Why should a largely contented Irish country wage a hopeless war against the larger power. Britain was not killing citizens at random, it was not locking Irish men and women up in cages, it was not silencing its pro-Irish or even anti-war press. It was running an Empire, for sure, but this was an Empire that Irish people as a whole were content to take part in the administration of, and invest their resources in. To state otherwise, unfortunately for nationalist historians, is factually incorrect.

The skeleton of the Metropole Hotel, one of the buildings used by the rebels during the Rising, gutted by fire and shelling during the course of that event. 

Such incendiary claims are not being made for the mere craic - instead I'm stating this so that you understand why I don't support the Rising OR what it claimed to stand for. The reason why I don't support it, in plain terms, is because it killed people, doomed Ireland to suffer, and went against the express wishes of the majority. I cannot state my case any clearer than that, so hopefully after listening to all of what I've let loose in my conclusion, you understand where I'm coming from. Any Irish fans that have been led here, I hope you appreciate what I've done, and that even if you're not convinced, you are willing to admit that more than one side to the 1916 Rising exists. For too long our country has suffered under the weight of the doctrine that launched 1916. It has suffered because such an ideology was never meant to acquire such a following, because it wasn't compatible with the reality of Ireland on the ground.

It was here that the vast majority of those killed following the Rising were executed. Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin. Nowadays, tours of the building and final moments of those rebel martyrs can be experienced, as part of the Irish government's attempts to bring the rising to people on a human level.

This is a beautiful country. The people are incredible (how about those Irish Euros fans ay?), the weather is shite and the scenery is inspiring. You don't need the events of the Rising or the violent militarism which followed it to appreciate Ireland. All you need is an open mind, an understand heart, and a refill of your pint. Let me get that for your friend, you've come a long way.

TOP TO BOTTOM Michael O'Hanrahan, Cornelius 'Con' Colbert and Edward Daly - rebels shot by the British for their roles in the 1916 rising.

So thanks for reading, and if you've made it this far and listened to all 20 of the episodes, thanks ever so much for listening. I hope you tell your friends and fam what I did here, and I hope it all gave you pause for thought as well. WDF will be taking a small break, probably until 1st August at the very latest, since I am in bad need of a rest from the stress that this has been, but also because I need to plan the next phase of WDF, and its next project. We won't be totally silent here, and you should expect a TALK episode to round this up, and celebrate the fact that we are now over FOUR YEARS OLD! Woohoo!

Patrick Pearse, the man I spent the most time analysing during this miniseries, and arguably the personification of the 1916 Rising. What follows are the images of the other 6 signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic.

Thomas McDonagh, Pearse's good friend and fellow teacher and Irish language enthusiast, before his radicalisation. He had been present for the founding of the Irish Volunteers in late 1913 and had favoured constitutionalist politics, before becoming more radicalised by his association.

Joseph Plunkett, romanticist, poet and literary man responsible for travelling to Germany alongside Roger Casement in the hopes of forming an Irish brigade out of Irish POWs.
Tom Clarke, perhaps the forgotten man of the Rising since it was he more than any other that directed its course. Responsible for establishing both the IRB's Military Council, as well as directing its Executive alongside Sean McDermott, Clarke was one of the first three executed alongside MacDonagh and Pearse on 3rd May 1916, following decades of anti-British activities.

Sean McDermott/MacDiarmaida, the other man on the three man executive, and Tom Clarke's second. He was the last executed by firing squad, alongside James Connolly, on 12th May 1916.

James Connolly c.1900. Connolly is probably the second most famous signatory and martyr of 1916. His beliefs are difficult to account for nowadays, since he seemed to have been plagued by contradictions, undergoing conversion to a revolutionary republican cause despite his avid Socialism. 

Finally, we have Eamonn Ceannt/Edward Kent, another signatory and a critical thinker and commander at the time of the Rising. Ceannt was known to possess immense charisma and charm, while also demanding the utmost discipline from his men at all times. He would be stationed at the South Dublin Union for the duration of the rising, where harsh fighting would ensue.

A little hint for both objects - my plan and dream is that soon, you won't be merely listening to When Diplomacy Fails, you'll be watching as well. As for what we'll be doing next, let's just say you've all been asking for years, and I've been putting it off for just as long. In case you didn't know, Britain Goes To War will be put on hold, until that aforementioned phase is over. I hope I'll see you there.

The two symbols which held such credence for republicans since the events of 1916. The Republican flag which was erected over the top of the General Post Office HQ on 24th April 1916, and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic which had been read out that afternoon by a nervous Patrick Pearse. Everything that followed in Irish history has hearkened back, at least to some extent, to that piece of paper, which declared that an Irish Republic had come to pass.


Where possible, every attempt has been made to give credit to the author/historian. I am indebted to the following works, without which the 1916 Miniseries would never have gone ahead. If you wish to inquire about any of them, please contact me with any questions you may have, I'd be happy to help where I can. The following the list has been exhaustively constructed, so I hope it will be useful to you if you ever decide to do such a project as this one. 

Academic Articles; (downloaded from with membership access).
·         Beiner, Guy. ‘Between Trauma and Triumphalism: The Easter Rising, the Somme, and the Crux of Deep Memory in Modern Ireland’. Journal of British Studies, Vol. 46, No. 2 (April 2007), pp. 366-389.

·         Bhreathneach-Lynch, Síghle. ‘Revisionism, the Rising, and Representation’. New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Spring, 1999), pp. 82-96.

·         Boyce, David G. ‘British Opinion, Ireland, and the War, 1916-1918’. The Historical Journal, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Sep., 1974), pp. 575-593.

·         Campbell, Malcolm. ‘Emigrant Responses to War and Revolution, 1914-21: Irish Opinion in the United States and Australia’. Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 32, No. 125 (May, 2000), pp. 75-92.

·         Chandler, James. ‘Cinema, History, and the Politics of Style: Michael Collins and The Wind that Shakes the Barley’. Field Day Review, Vol. 7 (2011), pp. 102-121.

·         Chapman, Wayne K. ‘Joyce and Yeats: Easter 1916 and the Great War’. New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, Vol. 10, No. 4 (Winter, 2006), pp. 137-151.

·         Fitzsimons, Andrew. ‘The Sea of Disappointment: Thomas Kinsella's 'Nightwalker' and the New Ireland’. Irish University Review, Vol. 36, No. 2 (Autumn - Winter, 2006), pp. 335-352.

·         Foster, John Wilson. ‘Yeats and the Easter Rising’. The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Jun., 1985), pp. 21-34.

·         Garvin, Tom. ‘The Anatomy of a Nationalist Revolution: Ireland, 1858-1928’. Comparative Studies in Society and History, Vol. 28, No. 3 (Jul., 1986), pp. 468-501.

·         Heaney, James. ‘Chesterton, Pearse, and the Blood Sacrifice Theory of the 1916 Rising’. Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 103, No. 411, "RELIGIOUS FREEDOM" in the 21st Century (Autumn 2014), pp. 307-317.

·         Kerrane, Kevin. ‘Orwell's Ireland’. The Irish Review (1986-), No. 36/37 (Winter, 2007), pp. 14-32.

·         Kinsella, Sean. ‘The Cult of Violence and the Revolutionary Tradition in Ireland’. Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 83, No. 329 (Spring, 1994), pp. 20-29.

·         Krause, David. ‘Connolly and Pearse: The Triumph of Failure?’ New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, Vol. 3, No. 4 (Winter, 1999), pp. 56-84.

·         Martin, F. X. ‘Easter 1916: An Inside Report on Ulster’. Clogher Record, Vol. 12, No. 2 (1986), pp. 192-208.

·         Martin, F. X. ‘1916: Myth, Fact, and Mystery’. Studia Hibernica, No. 7 (1967), pp. 7-126.

·         Martin, F. X. ‘The 1916 Rising: A "Coup d'État" or a 'Bloody Protest'? Studia Hibernica, No. 8 (1968), pp. 106-137.

·         Maume, Patrick. ‘Fr Francis Shaw and the Historiography of Easter 1916’. Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 103, No. 412, THE JESUITS IN IRELAND: Before and After the Suppression (Winter 2014/15), pp. 530-551.

·         McConnel, James. 'Jobbing with Tory and Liberal': Irish Nationalists and the Politics of Patronage 1880-1914’. Past & Present, No. 188 (Aug., 2005), pp. 105-131.

·         Moody, T. W. ‘Michael Davitt in Penal Servitude 1870-1877’. Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 31, No. 121 (Mar., 1942), pp. 16-30.

·         Moody, T. W. ‘Michael Davitt and the 'Pen' Letter’. Irish Historical Studies, Vol. 4, No. 15 (Mar., 1945), pp. 224-253.

·         Moody, T. W. ‘Michael Davitt, 1846-1906: A Survey and Appreciation’. Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 35, No. 138 (Jun., 1946), pp. 199-208.

·         Moody, T. W. ‘Michael Davitt, 1846-1906: A Survey and Appreciation Part II: 1881-90’. Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 35, No. 139 (Sep., 1946), pp. 325-334.

·         Nugent, Joseph. ‘The Sword and the Prayerbook: Ideals of Authentic Irish Manliness’. Victorian Studies, Vol. 50, No. 4 (Summer, 2008), pp. 587-613.

·         O'Brien, Sean T. ‘The Prison Writing of Michael Davitt’. New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, Vol. 14, No. 3 (FÓMHAR / AUTUMN2010), pp. 16-32.

·         Ó Ceallaigh Ritschel, Nelson. ‘James Connolly's "Under Which Flag", 1916’. New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Winter, 1998), pp. 54-68.

·         O'Donoghue, Florence. ‘Plans for the 1916 Rising’. University Review, Vol. 3, No. 1 (Spring, 1963), pp. 3-21.

·         O'Leary, Philip. ‘Reasoning Why after Fifty Years: The Easter Rising in Eoghan Ó Tuairisc's Dé Luain (1966)’. Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, Vol. 31 (2011), pp. 253-281.

·         Regan, John M. ‘Southern Irish Nationalism as a Historical Problem’. The Historical Journal, Vol. 50, No. 1 (Mar., 2007), pp. 197-223.

·         Stover, Justin Dolan. ‘Modern Celtic Nationalism in the Period of the Great War: Establishing Transnational Connections’. Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium, Vol. 32 (2012), pp. 286-301.

·         Sweeney, George. ‘Irish Hunger Strikes and the Cult of Self-Sacrifice’. Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 28, No. 3 (Jul., 1993), pp. 421-437.

·         Walsh, Brendan. ‘Frankly and Robustly National': Padraig Pearse, the Gaelic League and The Campaign for Irish at the National University’. Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Vol. 103, No. 410, IMAGINED COMMUNITY: Irish Identities (Summer 2014), pp. 135-146.

·         Augusteijn, J. Patrick Pearse, the Making of a Revolutionary. London, 2010.

·         Douglas, R. M. Architects of the Resurrection. Manchester, 2009.

·         Dudley Edwards, Ruth. Patrick Pearse: The Triumph of Failure. Dublin, 2006.

·         Ferriter, Diarmaid. The Transformation of Ireland. London, 2005.

·         Foster, R. F. The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making it Up in Ireland. London, 2002.

·         Foster, R. F. Vivid Faces, The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland 1890-1923. London, 2014.

·         Godson, Lisa & Brúck, Joanna. Making 1916: Material and Visual Culture of the Easter Rising. Liverpool, 2015.

·         Hopkinson, Michael. Green Against Green. Dublin, 1988.

·         Lydon, James. The Making of Ireland, from Ancient Times to the Present. London, 1998.

·         McCarthy, Mark. Ireland's 1916 Rising: Explorations of History-Making, Commemoration & Heritage in Modern Times. Dublin, 2016.

·         McGarry, Fearghail. The Rising: Ireland, Easter 1916. New York, 2010.

·         Moran, Sean Farrell. Patrick Pearse and the Politics of Redemption, the Mind of the Easter Rising 1916. Dublin, 1997.

·         Myers, Kevin. Ireland’s Great War. Dublin, 2014.

·         Neeson, Eoin. The Civil War 1922-23. Dublin, 1966.

·         O’Donnell, Rúan. The Impact of the 1916 Rising: Among the Nations. Dublin, 2008.

·         Pearse, Patrick. The Murder Machine and Other Essays. Dublin, 1976.

·         Richardson, Neil. According to Their Lights: Stories of Irishman in the British Army, Easter 1916. New York, 2015.

·         Stewart, A.T.Q. The Shape of Irish History. Belfast, 2001.

·         Yeats, Pádraig. A City in Turmoil: Dublin 1919-1921. Dublin, 2012.

·         Wills, Claire. GPO Dublin. London, 2009.

Documentaries Referenced/Used; (most found on YouTube, some on TV3/RTE).
·         Trial of the Century, 3 parts. ©TV3 2016

·         Patrick Pearse: Fanatical Heart.

·         1916, 3 parts. ©RTÉ 2016

·         Rebellion, 5 part documentary. ©RTÉ 2016

·         Age of Ireland, 5 parts.

Primary Sources
Bureau of Military History Archives; est. 1947. Available since 2003 and now digitised for free access at Last accessed 15/6/2016.

·         Recordings of Anna Smith on flute playing self-titled tunes renamed for copyright purposes.

·         Patrick Cassidy; album 1916 The Irish Rebellion. ©2016 Universal Music Ireland Ltd. All credits have been given to the original artists wherever possible. 

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Zack is Going to Cambridge, and Here's How YOU Can Help

So, How Can I Help You Zack?

>Well you see dear History friend, the issue with Cambridge - the issue with doing any 3 year long college course - is that of funding. Of course, I know I'm preaching to the choir here - you guys know full well, whether you've gone to college, thought about college or sent your kids to college or saved for college, that it costs a bomb. Indeed, this course will cost a bomb too, but it will be endlessly worth it in the long run, which of course is why this whole thing is so exciting.

>>In this post, you will find a lot about Zack you may not have known, and perhaps didn't want to know. But it's not a secret. I put it on here so that you can read it if you're curious, and not read it if you couldn't care less. If you're in a position to answer my regular calls to support me to go Cambridge by generously giving me a donation, then I feel as though I owe it to you as my backer to tell you where I've come from and how much Cambridge means to me. Also, as my donator, I feel as though you should know exactly who it is that you are funding.

>>>I should establish that I have applied for numerous scholarships, many of which can be quite generous if I get them, which I hopefully will. However, to be able to say to myself 'Ok I have this money for emergencies and to support myself further if I have to', which I most likely will, is obviously massively encouraging. I have a feeling that, if you've been along for the ride so far, you'd like to help me get to where I need to go. I understand money is tight and there's far more worthy causes than mine, but if you do feel so inclined to donate I would really appreciate it, and I make a solemn promise that any and all monies I receive from this point onwards will be going into my so-called 'Cambridge fund'. You can chose to give me something every month, a contribution which varies in size, or you can give me a once off donation instead - of course, it's absolutely up to you.

>>>>So that's it, that's my plea, from podcaster to listener. Will you support me and send #ZackToCambridge ? I'm not even on Twitter so I don't know why I'm trying to make that hashtag a thing. Regardless, thank you for your time, even if you just came here from one of the monologues at the beginning of the podcast which urged you to donate to me. I appreciate your money, but I also appreciate your kind wishes and prayers - both of these last two are free.

So thanks for stopping by When Diplomacy Fails' blog. If you want to know the full story of Zack Twamley from beginning to now, keep reading, but if not -

Thankssssss, and hopefully see you soon!
Zack :)


The Story of Zack Twamley and
                                              Why You Should Care (YES, YOU!)

Cambridge - the best University in the WORLD for history, has offered ME a place. Whatever happens after this, that fact alone is mind-blowing. Imagine doing something, or really enjoying what you do for some time, and getting much appreciated approval for what you do from others, and then suddenly the authority on what you love comes along and says 'Yes, you sir/madam are good enough - you should join our club'. Paraphrasing of course, but that's pretty much the guts of what Cambridge have said.

If all ends well here, if all the money comes together and all my plans, prayers and hopes work out, then in October 2016 I will begin my PhD in the same place that some of the greatest figures in world history have spent time. It vindicates all I've ever been told - that I am good enough for this system, that this system wants me to take part.

In the last state of the podcast address in November, back when I was filling all these applications out, I made plain that a lot of this was a confidence issue that I myself often have a problem with. My friends, my family, my mentor in University College Dublin, heck even my girlfriend, all note that I have a problem with self-confidence, and that my own inherent insecurities sometimes override the accomplishments that I've achieved. Take the award I got for my thesis for instance. I so badly wanted to tell everyone, but I worried so much that even the act of telling them would come across as arrogant, and I worried what my peers would think of me. I am just so incredibly bad at taking praise or any kind of congratulations, and maybe it's an Irish thing, but seriously, after about the first 'well done' I run out of ways to respond - sometimes I prepare a certain thing to say in response so that I will always be able to come back with some sort of reply, but then that raises problems when I have already used it for other people and those other people are still in the room when I'm congratulated again. I don't want to seem like a robot after all.

Even when I am being congratulated for something, I would always respond with some kind of self-depreciating reply such as 'oh yeah, thanks etc. I wonder how long it is before they realise they gave it to the wrong guy'; that kind of thing. How can I be a high-flying academic with an attitude like that. I'm so freaking awkward sometimes. Even when my mentor in UCD where I worked my ass off for four years, even when he was telling me at my Masters graduation that because I got the award for my dissertation and because I got First Class Honours, I was top of the class and should be walking on a cloud during the day, my first instinct was to challenge this academic who had always looked out for me because my reaction within was that it was impossible for me to have done so well and that it wrong for me to feel good about myself to too great an extent.

Am I crazy, or is anyone else like this? I know it is important to be humble, and perhaps it's a combination of my upbringing wherein I learned to be considerate of others and not to boast, and my general Irish temperament I mentioned before. Perhaps it's because we've been stood on for so long, but it really is an Irish stereotype that we are mostly unable to accept compliments. There's a very famous one that's been doing the rounds here for a while, and I apologise if this puts the non-Irish readers to sleep but bear with me here. Basically, there's a great value shop called Penney's, which actually quite recently expanded into the US. It's an amazing place - clothes are cheap and most of them look very nice. When you buy something from there and feel damn good about yourself for wearing something nice, you would think that a compliment would be welcomed, right? God no - the universal Irish reaction to when somebody compliments your clothes is 'Thanks - Penney's', as if to say 'Oh, this little thing, I got it in a place anyone could get it - it really isn't all that special don't you know, you could get it whenever you wanted'.

Maybe I am looking to much into this, but really, it makes me wonder sometimes if I ever will have the confidence to rock a lecture hall with my crazy historical moves. The reason why I love podcasting is because I get to be my own boss and control what I put out, and I generally get great feedback for it. I guess I worry that I won't measure up to the Cambridge standard if I do go over there, and you might be surprised to know that such a feeling - feeling like even though you got into a great Uni' you're somehow not qualified for it and you don't belong - is considered a condition called 'Impostor Syndrome'. Seriously, it is, look it up!

What I'm saying is this - in a roundabout way me getting into Cambridge is amazing, it is the genuine realisation of my life's work and the fulfillment of the plan I have had for myself in life. I have to try my very hardest to drown out the voices which tell me that I am not good enough. I have to force myself not to listen to them, and I have to lean on people - on my friends, on family, on God - to reinforce myself and reassure myself that I do belong in Cambridge, and that I won't mess up the chances I'm given there. I have to force myself to believe in...myself. I once said in that November state of the podcast address, that you guys are my muse, because you believed in me enough to listen to the podcast, to follow its progress, to tell others about it and even to send me encouragement from time to time. I need to hold on to that, I need to not waste that belief you've placed in me in future.

And hey, maybe you don't care. Maybe you're reading this right now and thinking 'Jeez Zack, that got outta hand really fast, I just listen to your show I don't care who you are or what your struggles are'. And honestly, that is fine. I do accept that podcasters wouldn't normally do this, but I honestly don't care. I have told you guys a lot about me, a lot about who I am and what I've been through, and I really feel like telling you guys these things is worthwhile, because I genuinely want you guys to know about who I am and what I've been through, so that you can see for yourself that I am just the same as you guys. The last thing I wanted was to be your weekly lecturer, who blandly recites the script he's written each week, and then condescendingly tells you he'll be back next time to tell you more stuff that you don't know about. That's not what WDF was ever meant to be. That's not the kind of lecturer or person that I ever want to be, which brings me to another point.

The world that I am soon to hopefully enter into is full of people older than me, richer than me and more experienced than me. Above all, it is full of people who have such high opinions of themselves, they need a separate seat sometimes for their own egos. I really really don't want to turn into that. I hate the idea that places like Cambridge are closed off from the wider world, or to people like me, because we don't think we are good enough. The reason why people don't think they're good enough is because if you go to Cambridge, or to any university, and you see some of the academic staff there, it is so easy to be intimidated. Sometimes, having spent four years in UCD, I compared the higher staff there to some of our politicians, who have spent so long insulated from real life and real people and have been made content with cushy high paid positions that they barely know how to talk to normal people who just want to learn.

Now, I really don't mean to generalise - I have met some lovely people in UCD who I would be lost without. My point is, I really want to be like those people, I don't want to be like the lecturer who glared at me for like 30 seconds when I asked him in his office if he had a stapler so I could staple my assignment together. I don't want to be like the guy who told me to 'move to France and learn French' since that was the 'obvious' way to learn French for the sake of my planned for PhD in History. Yeah, ok, I'll just up roots and move to a different country then. That's why me going to Cambridge is so exciting for me - though yes it's really exciting for me professionally - I really cannot wait to give back, and bring up the confidence of people who I'd like to call 'Zack Clones'. 'Zack Clones' are, as I understand it, people like me who have a ton of potential but zero confidence, and are in desperate need of reassurance from a person in authority. Once that person in authority gives them that reassurance, they will be more inclined to believe it. Let's be honest, most of our parents, our friends and family will tell us we're great. My granny thinks I'm the most handsome man who ever lived, but until someone in a position of authority backs up what's been said, you won't really believe it. For example, I didn't believe I was the most handsome man in the world until my girlfriend said it, and then it felt like I was hearing it for the first time.

Seriously though, I really feel like, whatever happens in my future, I would love to be the person that tells other people that they can do something. I would love to be - if I could be so bold - an inspiration to others. Others like me who started out wondering if they were good enough, and went on to achieve incredible things. Others like me who always knew they had something within them that needed to get out, but always doubted whether they would get the chance to realise that potential. I want to pick these people up from the ground where their low self-confidence has left them, and I want to show them that they can do things, that they do matter, and that they should never let their own self-doubt hold them back from achieving what seems like the impossible. Whenever anyone has asked me for help in getting them set up with a podcast, whatever advice they ever wanted or help they needed, I tried to be the person who I would want to talk to if I had been in their situation - since I know that I was at one stage. A wise man once said, 'It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice'.

In my Leaving Cert, the Irish state exams that everyone takes before they leave 'High School' and go to college, I did not even get enough points to go to UCD and do the History and English course that I thought I wanted to do. I was devastated. My life, as I knew it, seemed over at 18. I had no options and whatever romantic ambitions I had set for myself seemed doomed to never be realised. But I stuck at it; my guidance counselor in school encouraged me to apply for what was called a Post Leaving Cert or PLC course in a college of further education in Rathmines, a town a little bit south of the Dublin city center. I had heard of these courses before results came out and my world crashed down, but I had turned up my nose at them since I felt I was above such ventures. 'Post Leaving Cert' I would scoff, 'what a joke of a course'. Now I was forced, by my own shortcomings, to accept that I now had to do this very course. It turned out to be the best, most formative experience of my young adult life, and what is more, it set me up for successes more than I could ever give it credit for. The idea was, you'd do a rake of subjects similar in style to an average College arts/humanities course. Following exams in the roughly 10 different subjects, you would see if you got enough distinctions to then get into a course like English and History in UCD. You had to get a minimum of 4 out of 9 distinctions in order to be considered for Arts in UCD. I managed to get all 9, and I was over the moon. It was perhaps the first time I ever felt like a success, since school had not been massively encouraging for me as a creative human being. In school I was known as the guy who wrote stories and essays which were far too long, and as the guy who knew a lot in history class, but when it came down to it the exam system always kicked my ass.

But I digress, this time I had done it. This time I had done well in a course and now knew, or at least had a better idea, of what I wanted to do. I wanted to do History and Politics, since we had been introduced to that subject in Rathmines, and from that I knew that it was the combination I wanted, rather than English and History, the former of which I found awful at a college level, and still do. So I got accepted along with four others out of the PLC course to go to UCD and make our families proud. It was a great experience, to be able to finally walk into the college I had so long aspired to be in, to sit in the oversized lecture halls, to drink in the collegial atmosphere. I had made it. It was a bit of a rough journey ahead, since I had 3 years of a Bachelor of Arts to get through, but I ploughed through it, and by the end of the first year I began to think of something. After listening to podcasts, after thinking to myself 'I love this topic in history but not others' and 'I really wish people would examine diplomacy instead of war, since that's what interests me', I decided that I had to get on the history podcast wagon, which, as any oldy podcaster will tell you now, was quite a small niche in May 2012. I don't know how I came up with the name, I wish I did because I'm sure it'd make for a great story. But it literally just came to me one day when I was thinking about possible names. I've no idea why it came to me, but it did. Yawn.

Things started off pretty rough in the logo department, but they gradually got better

Anyway, the learning process began, and over the summer of 2012 I churned out a bucket of podcasts in a very short space of time. Looking back I don't know how I managed it, but you guys were definitely spoiled for about the first year that WDF was in production, and then we slowed it down a tad. Over the years I became more confident, and my confidence grew in podcasting I realised that I was better able to excel in the college work aspects too. I had so much background knowledge and so much more passion than many of my peers, mainly because I had spent so long engrossed in the various topics which we eventually wrote essays on and studied. It stood me in good stead, and I may have irritated some lecturers when I tried to promote my podcast to them, sometimes a bit excessively. It was, I soon realised, hard to be like 'I have a podcast that looks at wars in history' without sounding a) arrogant or b) amateurish. The problem of course was that most people have preconceived notions about what a podcast is, and if they just picture you going '' for the entire thing then of course they won't want to listen or even hear you go on about it. But I didn't give up.

The podcast was beginning to bring me into places I never thought it would: in December 2013 I was invited by listener Dr John Hogan to deliver a lecture in the Dublin Institute of Technology on the origins of WW1. It was terrible lecture, consumed with all of the cliche's of the pre-war era that I have since learned to repudiate and argue against, but I was so elated at the time that of course I didn't care at all. Further things were in store. Because my friend knew I did a history podcast he set me up with a lovely family who were looking to get history grinds for their 15 year old. I got to rant and rave about the international system to a girl who was literally in awe of my knowledge for like 2 hours, and she loved it (or at least her mother claimed she did). The best part, of course, was that I got paid for it. I actually had endorphins and came home singing every time we finished a session. It was probably the most fulfilling and satisfying time in my professional career - to date. I was utterly convinced - I needed to teach history as a job, it was where I belonged and where I knew I had to be.

So the idea came up to apply for the Masters in UCD, and after having done the 3 year BA there already, it was surprisingly easy to get in. My BA GPA wasn't particularly amazing, but because I was known as the enthusiastic, passionate, personable guy I was accepted. My podcast definitely helped - when other candidates for the course can barely map out the idea they had for their dissertation, I looked like a freaking pro with WDF behind me. But it took another trip to really appreciate how important WDF was. Through family connections in the BBC, I was invited to go to London and talk with some high ups there about my podcast. It was a great experience, and really showed me that I had something great with this podcast, and you guys. The guy I met was so encouraging, so certain that I would go far because I had such incredible passion, that I couldn't help feeling on cloud 9 afterwards. I wanted to hug WDF, and every one of my listeners, but obviously I couldn't, so I celebrated instead by releasing a special 3 year/1 million download anniversary special.

Some day it will be me in that bus. Well, maybe.

It was now that it clicked - I had When Diplomacy Fails behind me. I had the support of over 50,000 individual people who could verify that they at least listened to my voice at some point, should they ever be asked. Now I was determined to use that to my advantage, because after a conversation with my well connected Aunt while over there I made the decision to go for it, to go for the big one. I didn't know how I was going to do it, I didn't know when I would, but I knew that I had to do a PhD in history, because that was how I would get to where I wanted to go - a university teaching history to people who were once so very like me. I wasn't sure where I should go, and it was early days yet so I had some time to decide. I had to finish my MA dissertation first, so I kept going with that and regularly met with my mentor from UCD in order to keep picking his brains about how the whole practice works. Initially I was adamant about one thing that might surprise you now - wherever I went to do my PhD, it absolutely, could not be, in Cambridge or Oxford.

I pictured the snobbiness, the stuffiness of the place, how entitled everyone would be and how out of place and unwelcome I'd feel, and I immediately felt turned off. Well there was that, and the fact that it cost £50 to apply to Oxbridge, and I was not parting with that kinda money. So I thought. So while ideas swam around in my head I accepted a dinner invitation with my mentor and he basically sold Cambridge to me. I can't pinpoint exactly when it was, but afterwards I was determined to go there. I would apply to Oxford as well as a plan B, but I was determined that because Cambridge was the best place to go for doing a history PhD, it was where I had to be. Suddenly it was a mission for me, like a test for my own self that I had to pass. 'What about this college or that college', asked my supervisor, 'what if your plan a and plan b don't work out'. What about it, I said, I will just apply to everything next year if I can't get into Cambridge or Oxford, but since Cambridge is where I really want to go, I feel like I should apply there with confidence, and if I don't get in then, well, I'll accept that it's time to stop dreaming and be more realistic.

Cambridge is actually breathtaking - but would I really be able to go there?

It's so like Hogwarts it's insane

A long period of stressful applications followed, as I discovered one should really get a degree in applications before even applying for these places. I stressed buckets, but other good news brought me back from the gloom - I learned that I had won an award for my dissertation, and that it was the best of its kind out of the Graduate History School in UCD for the year. This, my supervisor and mentor helped me appreciate, would really help me with funding and actually getting into Cambridge, since I actually looked like I was the top of my class. Elated as I felt, if you remember from earlier it still didn't quite feel real - it felt as though I was good, but surely not that good. I didn't really dwell on it or celebrate as much as I perhaps should have, and I kept the whole thing under relatively close wraps. I made a celebratory Facebook post announcing my graduation and I announced it as well on the State of Podcast Address that November, but still, none of it felt real just yet. Perhaps it was because I still had so much to do.

December 2015 was an immensely stressful time, since deadlines were coming up for scholarships, problems were encountered and heart attacks were almost had. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say sometimes these things cause more stress than perhaps anything like them ever should. Seriously. After sending off the Oxford application and kissing it goodbye, I eventually did the same with the one for Cambridge after the first week of January 2016. I was glad to see the back of it, and happy to finally focus on the podcast and nothing else for a while. Then it happened.

On a normal Monday evening on 26th January 2016, I got an email. It said it was from Cambridge Graduate Administration. I dozily opened the email and my phone wirred into life as the email containing the following words appeared on the screen.

We are very pleased to make you a conditional offer of admission as a Graduate Student at the University of Cambridge. 

I read it about 5 times before I actually realised what it had said. Then I felt this strange feeling of euphoria, similar to the one I felt when I had opened my results envelope in Rathmines and discovered that I'd gotten 9/9 distinctions. It was real. I freakin' did it!

I had done it, I had been offered a place at Cambridge!!

I ran the facts over in my head. I had a lot of questions, first among them being 'REALLY? Like for actual reals?' The second being 'oh my agihknekfdbwkejfbkwbf!&*' The third being 'conditional ay?... upon what exactly'. Even with such great news in front of me, I remained skeptical, I remained convinced that it was too good to be true. I downloaded the information pack for prospective students who had been offered a place, and I habitually ignored the first line of it which basically said 'well done, not everyone gets into Cambridge, you did very well, now just take these few steps and you'll be all set.' I texted my mentor and supervisor and the former rang me to congratulate me in person. This is how Cambridge works, he said, but if you give them what they want - essentially hard copies of my degree results and a form that proves I can pay for it all (I will have till July to get the monies together) - then I'll be accepted. Above all, Cambridge were now waiting on me to accept their offer. As far as they were concerned, I was good enough for them, I was good enough for their system, I was good enough to now become a member of, as my mentor put it, 'a community of only the top 10% of the world'.

I was in awe, I was in shock. I was in denial. For about a week I refused to believe it, I didn't know what to do with the news. I had told my close family straight away of course, and sent a cryptic message to my delighted girlfriend, but I told nobody else, and made sure nobody really told anyone either. I don't know why. Why was there such a secret regarding the whole thing? I think I was worried above all that it wouldn't work out, and I wouldn't actually go to Cambridge despite what the email had said. I knew deep down, it was a lot of money to require, and I was going to enter into a world in which I really didn't know anything about. Then the college I had applied to join within Cambridge - Peterhouse - offered me a place too. Basically, Cambridge is divided into colleges with fancy names, many of which you've no doubt heard of like Trinity and King's College and Churchill for example, and the college serves as your hub within Cambridge. It can offer you funding, it houses your bed, desk and hopefully some mates. To be offered a place is a critical part of applying to Cambridge and is, so I've been told, one of the most wretched and nerve-wracking parts of the whole process. Now I had a conditional offer and my first choice in college. But still, doubtful Zack lurked in the background.

Then I got some advice, from myself. No really, I had just gone for an amazing run and sat down in Costa to do some coffee drinking and contemplating. Seriously if you haven't done this before then you haven't lived - it's such an amazing combination. Anyway, so I listened to some of my back catalogue and decided to listen to my state of the podcast address from November. Within it, I had declared that even to be offered a place in Cambridge, regardless of whether I could pay it, would be an achievement worth celebrating, and that if I could only get that far, never mind anything else, I would be able to feel like I had made it. It struck me like the most emphatic of epiphanies. What the hell was wrong with me?

There I was with an amazing podcast which is renowned across the world, with over 1.5 million downloads and a base in every English speaking country. I had an amazing family, a gorgeous girlfriend whom I deeply love and, above all, I am on the cusp of beginning the next incredible stage of my life in a place where as recently as November I didn't think I could get into, but which I have now undoubtedly been accepted by. Furthermore, I have a base of operations set up and a supervisor in place for when I go over. It was a strange feeling, like I was only just seeing things for the first time. 'Cambridge don't make mistakes Zack', I told myself, 'you are just that good'. I smirked to myself naughtily; if anyone had heard me make such an arrogant statement, they'd think I was a jerk.

But then I thought again 'I am good enough for Cambridge. I am'. Then as I traveled home it suddenly became funny, 'Look at me' I thought to myself, 'I live in a council estate - if Cambridge even knew who I really was, where I'd come from, what I'd done and how hard I'd actually worked to get there, then surely they'd realise how incredible my whole story was'. It was at that moment that it hit me - my story is an incredible one, and for the sake of people everywhere who believe that they aren't good enough, or who are told by people or the system or anyone else that they aren't good enough, it is a critical one to tell.

These lyrics have always somehow lurked in the back of my mind. The song is 'Top of the World' by Imagine Dragons and it's quite the tune for when you really feel like you can do anything

Had I given up, had I decided not to pursue the end goal of a PhD in history that others had recommended. Had I listened to the voices that said no within me rather than the people who encouraged me without, where would I be now? If I hadn't been encouraged by others to keep going, I don't know if I would have at all. I don't know if I would have been strong enough to persuade myself that, even if I made it to the end, that I was worth that end result, or that anything like that success would be destined for me. Had the guidance counselor in high school not believed in me; had the secretary in Rathmines not believed in me enough to give me a place at the last minute in an over-subscribed course; had my listener John Hogan not believed in me enough to ask me to do a guest lecture; had my friend not believed in me enough to set me up to give history grinds; had my Aunt not believed in me enough to recommend me to higher ups in the BBC to talk about my podcast; had my mentor not believed in me enough to persuade me that Cambridge was the place for me; had each and every one of you not believed in me enough to tune in every week and send words of encouragement my way - had I not believed in me enough to justify continuing with the work, with the podcast, with the study, with the applications, even when it was so hard and success seemed so out of reach, then I don't know where I would be right now, but I definitely wouldn't be here.

It stands as an incredible journey, and I am blessed to able to say that I have achieved all that and that I am now about to begin another chapter of this life. Sometimes, I still hear the voices deep down which tell me that I can't do it, that I should give up and that other people are better, more qualified and more worthy than me. Sometimes I hear them, but the other, better voices are much louder now. Sometimes, when I listen really hard, the better voices are all that I can hear.

I can and I will.

Thanks for reading, I mean that sincerely, and if you feel in any way the same as I did; like you're not worth it, like you should just give up, like you may even have 'impostor syndrome', then please talk to someone. People care about you whether you believe it or not, and the best is yet to come.

Much Love