Irish Revolutionary Period DBQ Reflection


Irish Volunteers with the flag of the Irish Republic, Easter 1916. Courtesy of the BBC.

When I set out to begin my DBQ assignment, the scope was wide and the learning rather shallow. I realized fairly early on that I was looking at a yearlong unit rather than an isolated DBQ assignment, and set out to narrow my focus. I settled on the Irish Revolution, often called the Anglo-Irish War, as the subject of my DBQ. The revolution encompassed many of the points I had hoped to make in the larger unit on revolution, so it seemed like a good platform from which to teach. I had wanted to teach students about the relatively transient elements to many revolutions, that they are progressions rather than moments, summations rather than beginnings. The primary skill taught within the lesson would be the reading of primary documents as a means of historical inquiry. Once I narrowed the focus of my DBQ, I found it much easier to teach said skill. Rather than picking and choosing from a vast array of primary documents that, in some way or another, represented a 20th century revolution, the selection of ten images, documents, and artistic renderings of the Irish Revolution allowed for a deeper understanding of revolutionary sentiment at the outset of the 1900’s.

The final project, entitled “The Irish Revolutionary Period,” traces the development of the Irish Revolution from Easter 1916 to the outbreak of the Irish Civil War in 1921 through images and documents. I tried as best I could to limit the contextual history and allow the documents to speak for themselves, though it could be difficult at times. The topic is one I’m very familiar with, so it took a bit of effort to exclude my editorial inclinations. I feel the project is fairly well-rounded, though I would like a chance to supplement the DBQ with some background lessons. I learned that the process of putting together a DBQ can be especially difficult as a teacher, because it requires one to step back and allow the students to connect the dots, rather than doing the work for them. All in all, I’m happy with the product, and its one I’m bound to use in future lessons, wherever I end up teaching.

This DBQ is part of our class-produced, multi-touch iBook. Available free at iTunes

The Evolution of Revolution in the 20th Century


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

My DBQ assignment will revolve around various revolutionary movements in the 20th century. Students will examine primary documents, such as the image above, and attempt to draw conclusions about the factors that contribute to what I will consider “revolutionary moments,” or the boiling over of revolutionary sentiments in a national context. To begin, I will introduce the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. Beginning on Easter 1916, the Irish revolution proved to be the initial unraveling of the British Empire, as they waged war against the central powers in World War I. Unpopular both at home and abroad, the Irish revolution gained momentum over the course of five years, until the signing of a cease fire in 1921 between the government of the United Kingdom and the newly formed Republic of Ireland. War then broke out between Pro-Treaty and Anti-Treaty forces, once they were forced to confront the reality of a divided nation, as outlined by the treaty signed with the British government.

The Irish revolutionary period raises many interesting questions regarding revolution in the 20th century. As most revolutions pitted an independence movement against a larger, imperial force, one must ask who controls the revolution? In the case of Ireland, a revolution did not unite the country, but in fact divided it along lines that persist to this day.

I would ask students to compare the Irish revolution to Mexico’s in later units. Though I have yet to delve deeply into the history of the Mexican revolution, the parallel timelines should elicit some interesting comparisons. Fortunately, both revolutionary periods produced a surfeit of sources that capture the sentiments of the time.


Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Who controls a revolution? The revolutionaries, or their opposition? When and why do revolutions begin? How does the Proclamation of Irish Republic compare to other documents of independence, namely the US Declaration of Independence? Does a revolution necessarily need an enemy? How have revolutions changed in the 21st century?


Courtesy of The New York Times.