A lively and inviting history of Belfast—exploring the highs and lows of a resilient city
Modern Belfast is a beautiful city with a vibrant tradition of radicalism, industry, architectural innovation, and cultural achievement. But the city’s many qualities are all too frequently overlooked, its image marred by association with the political violence of the Troubles.
Feargal Cochrane tells the story of his home city, revealing a rich and complex history which is not solely defined by these conflicts. From its emergence as a maritime port to its heyday as a center for the linen industry and crucible of liberal radicalism in the late eighteenth century, through to the famous shipyards where the Titanic was built, Belfast has long been a hub of innovation. Cochrane’s book offers a new perspective on this fascinating story, demonstrating how religion, culture, and politics have shaped the way people think, act, and vote in the city—and how Belfast’s past continues to shape its present and future.
Feargal Cochrane is professor emeritus and senior research fellow at the Conflict Analysis Research Centre, University of Kent. He is the author of twelve books including Northern Ireland: The Fragile Peace and Breaking Peace: Brexit and Northern Ireland.
“Excellent. . . . Like Belfast, [Cochrane’s] book is a complex and energetic success.”—Crawford Gribben, Wall Street Journal
“To read Feargal Cochrane’s wide-ranging account of the city, therefore, is to ricochet pleasurably between recognition and surprise.”—Jenny McCartney, The Spectator
“A wonderfully crafted narrative history of Belfast. Feargal Cochrane has managed to convey a sense of history and hope within this book.”—Belfast Telegraph
Named a Best Nonfiction Book of 2023 by Marginal Revolution (blog)
“Belfast tells the rich and complex history of the city, the qualities of which are often overlooked amid a focus on sectarianism and violence.”—John Manley, The Irish News
“A wonderful book on this most underrated city, the best overall general introduction to Belfast.”—Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution (blog)
“Written by someone who can combine the insights of being Belfast-born with the perspective of living and working as an academic in England. . . . It’s an engaging read, balanced and personalised.”—John Goodall, Country Life
“Feargal Cochrane has produced a masterful love-letter to his home city of Belfast. He delves beyond sectarian division and international stereotypes, to reveal the real heart of a city that is steeped in cultural creativity, intellectual advancement, architectural innovation and economic progress. Reflecting his very personal journey, as someone who grew up in the shadow of Harland and Wolff, Cochrane brings to life the magic of Belfast, against a dark and troubled backdrop. This work is a heartfelt and thorough testament to the fact that Belfast is more than the violence which has taken place within. An exciting and inspirational read which made me fall in love again with my home city.”—Marisa McGlinchey, author of Unfinished Business
“Feargal Cochrane with his wry, relaxed narrative style, tells the intriguing story of Belfast’s fascinating, contradictory and conflict-ridden history. It is still a long haul to that new Belfast, with the vexed question of Partition still to be addressed in a future referendum. But in this book there is more than a vague hope that Belfast can be the intellectual and cultural powerhouse that drives respectful, democratic debate and guides a love-filled future.”—Mary McAleese, president of Ireland, 1997–2011
“Cochrane has produced a fine piece of work. His book reaches back to a personal, social and political history of Belfast but also looks around and ahead to encapsulate the rich cultural heritage and the hopes and dreams of the city.”—Joanne Murphy, author of Management and War
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