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Title: 'A Fenian Pastime'?: early Irish board games and their identification with chess
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Keywords: chess
cultural nationalism
Issue Date: 2010
Series/Report no.: Irish Historical Studies;
Abstract: Twentieth century scholars, critically re-examining Ireland’s origin myths, explained how ‘synthetic pseudo-history’ such as the Lebor Gabála Érenn arose. Sports, like nations, have need of origin myths, chess being no exception; moreover, sporting preferences have sometimes become bound up with a nation’s sense of its unique identity. In the same ancient manuscripts where Celtic revivalists found legends of the earliest people in Ireland, they often also found references to board-games. What may be called the myth of Celtic Chess then emerged. The weak version stated that the pre-Norman Irish played chess; the strong form, more rarely seen, actually claimed a native origin for the game. The myth was especially publicised during the period of re-awakening Gaelic identity from the 1880s to the First World War and persists in some quarters to this day. This article examines the role that chess, and board games of skill that were mistaken for chess, played in Irish cultural nationalism, particularly in the nineteenth century.
Description: ACCEPTED
Appears in Collections:History (Scholarly Publications)

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