Ireland was populated by the Celts in the sixth century B.C.E. Christianity was brought to the Island in the fifth century. Vikings invaded and plundered in the ninth and tenth centuries, before the Normans arrived in the 12th century. They quickly gained control as Irelad was brought under the English crown in 1603, something the native Irish were never really happy with. After the battle f Boyne in 1690, Protestantism was established as the dominant religion and Catholics were discriminated against. In the early 19th century, Catholics gained the right to sit in parliament. In the late 1840s, the so-called potatoe famine hit Ireland hard and more than a million people died of starvation while another million were forced to leave Ireland, many of them emigrating to America. This increased the tension with the British and the Great Famine had far-reaching political consequences, strengthening the Irish demand for Home rule. This was finally granted in 1914, and in 1916 a republic was declared in Dublin. This ed to the Easter Rising, and an ensuing civil war. In 1922 the south gained independence, but the northern province stayed with Britain. Ireland became a member of the UN in 1955 ad of the EU in 1973.

Ireland placed 8th on the Democracy Index in 2022, after the Nordic countries, New Zealand and Switzerland. describes Ireland as “a stable democracy in which political rights and civil liberties are respected and defended. There is some limited societal discrimination, especially against the traditionally nomadic Irish Travellers. Corruption scandals have plagued the police force, and domestic violence remains a problem.”

Ireland is a parliamentary democracy with a president as Head of State, a largely ceremonial role. The current president is Michael D. Higgins from the Labour Party. Leo Vadakar from the Christian Liberal Conservative party Fine Gael is the current prime minister. Ireland had a period of extraordinary growth from 1993 to 2007, but was hit hard by the global economic downturn in 2008 and is still in some ways recovering from this. Today the country is home to many immigrants and face a large housing crisis. Mary Robinson was president from 1990-1997 and went on to become UN High Commisioner of Human Rights . Robinson is widely regarded as having had a transformative effect on Ireland and was involved in the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the legalisation of contraception, the legalisation of divorce, enabling women to sit on juries, and securing the right to legal aid in civil legal cases in Ireland.

Ireland has had many famous writers, two of them winning the Nobel Prize for literature, Samuel Becket in 1969 and Seamus Heaney in 1995.

Check out

for more information on Ireland’s history, political system, economy and society.

Write a blog post either on your experences while in Ireland, or on Ireland’s history, politics or literature. Due April 12.

British and American influence in the world

Lately we have worked on the topic of how Great Britain and the USA both have had a very big impact on the world, at different times and in different ways. One can certainly discuss to what degree this influence has been a positive or negative thing, and it is hard to imagine what the world would look like without this influence. It really also depends on the perspective you see things from.

Pick either the USA after WW2 or the British Empire and write a blog post which discusses its political, economical and cultural influence in other parts of the world. Your should include both positive and negative aspects and draw your own conclusion based on the arguments you have presented. Feel free to focus on certain countries/events/time periods as examples.

In the news: What’s going on in America?

In the Midterm Elections, the Republicans managed to gain a majority in the House of Representatives and will therefore get to choose the new Speaker of the House, taking over after Democrat Nancy Pelosi. You would think that they would take this opportunity to get a memeber of their party into this role, as the Speaker of the House is third in line in power in the USA, after the President and the Vice President. But no, seems like they can’t agree…. 20 Republican representatives have now voted against the Republican candidate Kevin McCarthy. You would also think that the Republicans who voted against him would then maybe think he is too right-leaning (Trump supporter) and therefore decided to go with the Democrats instead. But no, these are the real hardliners in the Republican party, and they don’t think McCarthy is conservative enough. The House wil vote on this again, so follow the vote and see what happens:)

Belfast and The Troubles

After watching the film Belfast, write a blog post on one of the following tasks:

  • Write a short film review. Include some information about the film and the devices it uses and give your own opinion on the film. Who would you recommend it to and why?
  • Do some research on the conflict in Northern Ireland and write an informative piece about the Troubles and the situation in Northern Ireland today. (tip: your new text book has a chapter on this)
  • Peace walls or peace lines are a series of barriers that separate Catholic republican and nationalist areas from Protestant loyalist and unionist neighbourhoods. The barricades were originally built during the Troubles, but there are still more than 60 barricades in the area. Do some research online about the role of the Peace Walls today. Find an example of a mural and its background and reflect on its political message.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

You have now read the first five chapters of this book.

Write a blog post where you comment on:

  • your impression of the story so far. Remember that you are allowed to be negative, but no matter what your thoughts are so far – try to explain and give examples of what you like or dislike.
  • what impression you get of the company Underwood Samson.
  • describe how Changez feels about America and find quotes to support this.
  • how  Erica is described. Find a quote to underline your opinion.
  • 9-11 and Changez’ reaction to it (chapter 5).

Deadline: Monday, October 24

In the news – Nobel Peace Prize and Midterm Elections USA

The last day before our fall break, this year’s winners of the Nobel Peace Prize were announced. This year, the prize was shared between human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus, the Russian human rights organisation Memorial and the Ukrainian human rights organisation Center for Civil Liberties. As we can see, the trend of focusing on human rights and specifically freedom of expression continues. According to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, “They have for many years promoted the right to criticise power and protect the fundamental rights of citizens. They have made an outstanding effort to document war crimes, human right abuses and the abuse of power. Together they demonstrate the significance of civil society for peace and democracy.” The actual prize will be given out in Oslo Rådhus on December 10. Check out more on this year’s winners here:

In the USA, the campaigns for the Midterm Elections are well under way. This congressional election is on November 8 and all members of the House of Representatives and 1/3 of the Senate are on election. Read more about this here:

Also use this learning resource from the New York Times to find out more about what’s at stake in these elections:

Freedom Of Expression

Many countries have laws protecting freedom of expression, but not all practice what they preach…. Choose a country of your interest and write a blog post on how freedom of expression is guaranteed (or not…) through laws, how these laws are limited and even violated, leading to arrests, attacks, deaths and in some cases even torture.

The blog post can be individual or pair work, but make sure both of you post it on your blog when it is done – end of class on Monday, September 19.

On September 21 we’ll have a writing assignment in class based on the issues we’ve been working on this year, so part of Monday’s class can also be spent on revising and preparing for this.

In the news: US journalist killed, Queen Elisabeth dies

Check out the case below and find more information – what is it about, and how is it relevant for our topic of freedom of expression? What is investigative journalism and what kind of cases had Jeff German looked into?

In the same week that Liz Truss replaced Boris Johnson as the prime minister of the UK, Queen Elizabeth 2 died at 96, after 70 years on the British throne. On November 29, 2021 Queen Elisabeth was removed as head of state in Barbados and replaced by Sandra Mason, the nation’s first democratically elected woman president — 400 hundred years after English ships first arrived there and established one of the most oppressive and brutal of England’s Caribbean slave colonies. Now there is talk that other Commonwealth countries might do the same.

Find out what countries have the British Monarch as their head of state and why. Three countries in particular have been mentioned in this context – which ones, and why?

New school year, new subject

Welcome to English 2:) This English course includes social studies as well as literature and we aim to look at the importance of literary works in a societal context.

First topic this year is therefore Freedom of Expression and the novel Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. When the book was published in 1988, it sparked outrage among some Muslims, who considered its content to be blasphemous and the Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the writer’s death in 1989. Many people have been killed or injured because of this, including the Norwegian publisher of the book, William Nygaard. In August of this year, Rushdie was stabbed and seriously injured at a literary event in New York.

So what is the role of writers when it comes to free speech and freedom of expression?

Accordian to the Guardian journalistCRobert McCrum , “Rushdie has again instructed us in a profound lesson: great literarure will always be a matter of life and death”