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American historian who recently published a book about Derry will give a talk on her work next week

Special event is being hosted by city's Central Library

New plan being discussed to reduce the amount of traffic allowed in to Derry's Walled City area

An American historian who recently published a book on Catholic Derry between Irish partition and the start of The Troubles is hosting a video lecture next week.

Assistant Professor of History at Salem State University, Margo Shea's book 'Derry City: Memory and Political Struggle in Northern Ireland' views the recent past through the lens of community memory. 

Next Wednesday she is giving a Zoom chat about the book, which is being hosted by Derry's Central Library.

Professor Shea had been planning to come to Derry for the month of August, but had to cancel because of Covid.

"I had been planning for a launch as a way of celebrating local historians and storytellers and it was a huge disappointment to call it off," she said.

'Derry City: Memory and Political Struggle in Northern Ireland' uses archival research and oral histories to help understand the often colourful cultural and political identities of the people who live here.

"In the Zoom chat I am going to talk about what it was like to learn Derry's history from sources that some historians might call nontraditional and why geography and a sense of place matter so much in my telling of 20th century Derry history," explained the Professor.

"I want to talk about obituaries, Derry Journal "Onlooker" columns and Derry ghost stories and Irish rituals-these are things only a Derry audience would really understand.

"I think they illuminate the ways that unofficial histories live in communities and the ways they demand the continued persistence in oral traditions and local past-keepers."

Professor Shea lived in the North West for a period in the 90s and returned periodically between 2004 and 2019 to research the book.

"So many images of Derry are in black and white. They are sombre, and I think it's because so many of the images that we are familiar with are from The Troubles," she said.

"But the Derry I know for the last 20 years is definitely not in black and white, it's in colour."

The professor uses people's memories to try and understand what was going on for Catholics in Derry in the last century.

"I decided to follow memories like breadcrumbs, and in doing that I stumbled into a social and cultural history of Derry using Catholic's memories and historical consciousness as my lens," she said.

The book weaves local history sources and political discourse together with community folklore like ghost stories and children's rhymes.

"It is not just the stories themselves that are fascinating, which they are, but it's also how the stories themselves come together to give you a different way of thinking about Catholics in Northern Ireland and about Derry City in that time between partition and the Civil Rights Movement."

The Zoom talk will take place on Wednesday, December 2, at 2pm. Booking is essential and can be done by emailing derrycentral.library@ librariesni.org.uk

Derry City: Memory and Political Struggle in Northern Ireland is available to buy on the University of Notre Dame Press website.

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