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The Maamtrasna Murders

Language, Life, and Death in Nineteenth-Century Ireland

The Maamtrasna Murders of 1882—in which three men who spoke only Irish were wrongfully sentenced to death after a trial conducted fully in English—stand as one of the gravest miscarriages of justice in Irish history. In this book, Margaret Kelleher uses the Maamtransa case, notorious for its failure to interpretive and translation services to monoglot Irish speakers, as a starting point for an investigation into broader sociolinguistic issues. Uncovering archival materials not previously consulted, this book illuminates a story that has proven to be a much messier social narrative than previously recognized. Kelleher show that, although the wrongful execution of monolingual Irishmen have historically been the best-known feature of the case, the complex significance of language use in an isolated region mirrors the dynamics that continue to influence the fates of monolingual and bilingual people today.  

352 pages | 2 color plates | 6 1/4 x 9 1/4

History: British and Irish History

Language and Linguistics: Language and Law


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