The Irish War of Independence (Irish: Cogadh na Saoirse) or Anglo-Irish War was a guerrilla war fought between the Irish Republican Army (the army of the Irish Republic) and the British Government and its forces in Ireland. (Wikipedia)
The Promise of Light is for the most part about the above war that happened between 1919 and 1921 and Ben Sheridan’s part in it. However, we also get a look at some of the background for the war and the hostilities that had brought Ben Sheridan to Ireland.
When Ben Sheridan discovers that the man he thought was his biological father isn’t, he also discovers that his adopted father’s background was different from the one he had thought. He and other exiles from the Irish conflict had settled on Rhode Island and tried to gain support for the Irish side of the conflict from the US government. They also collected weapons and money and sent these covertly to Ireland.
Ben Sheridan goes with one of these transports on his way to discover who his biological father was.
Without Ben going to Ireland we would not have had this fictional tale of the Black and Tan war / Anglo-Irish war / Irish war for Independence. Just looking at these three different names for the fighting between 1919 and 1921 shows me how incredibly important the combination of our words is. Words have a great deal of power in forming our world views. Some of the links below use this power in their portrayal of the terrible killings of that time.
Inside my head that is what Paul Watkins shows us with The Promise of Light. We get to see the despair of the innocents and the participants who are brutally murdered and tortured by the other part of the conflict. Except for the people who enjoyed killing, raping and maiming what we are dealing with is a bunch of frightened people who are following some kind of leader. These leaders manage to bring others to their side. Sometimes they use words, sometimes money and sometimes brutality in getting people to support them.
I understand the need to be free of the tyranny of rule by people we feel have no right to rule us. After all I am Norwegian and Norway was used as collateral in wars and went between Danish and Swedish rule for centuries. Then the Germans took us over. But I would stink as a patriotic warrior.
However, I do see how Ben got drawn into the conflict. Chance has the potential of bringing about terrible things in our lives. On his way over to Ireland he did not envision killing others, but that is what he ended up doing. Ben was beaten for the cause and he got to watch people he had befriended killed. He also learned even more about grief than he had thought possible.
Paul Watkins portrayal of this period of Irish history drew me in and kept me reading.
The Anglo-Irish War (BBC History)
The Black and Tans – who were they? by Tom Toomey
The Irish War of Independence by Noreen Higgins