Review – Anatomy of a Lie – Jim O’Callaghan TD
The controversy surrounding the diaries of Roger Casement has persisted since his execution. After Casement was convicted of treason and sentenced to death in 1916 there were many appeals for clemency, including a petition organised by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There were strong political reasons for the British Government to show clemency, including pressure from the United States, and commute his death sentence. In order to counteract these influential calls for clemency, a campaign to blacken Casement’s name through the showing of police typescripts to influential persons, a process that had already commenced before his trial, was reinvigorated.
There has been extensive historical analysis of this campaign with conflicting judgements on the authenticity of the diaries. What is not in doubt, however, is the extensive efforts to which the British Government went through the showing of police typescripts in order to ensure that the calls for clemency were muted and Casement was executed.
Paul Hyde has written a remarkable account on the continuing controversy about the Casement diaries. Along with Angus Mitchell, he is one of the few historians to challenge the consensus that the diaries are authentic. His book “Anatomy Of A Lie” is a work of scholarship that constitutes a valuable contribution to this ongoing historical debate.
Hyde examines the police typescripts which were shown in the weeks before and after Casement’s conviction and the bound diaries which only came into the public domain in 1959. He also provides a very critical analysis of the work of Brian Inglis whose biography of Casement was so influential in contributing to the historical consensus that the diaries are authentic.
Unfortunately, the question as to whether or not the diaries are authentic has become linked with the question of Casement’s sexuality. These are two separate and distinct issues. The authenticity of the diaries, however, is a question that merits careful consideration so that the truth can be established. It is the primary function of an historian to establish what factually occurred in the past and Paul Hyde has displayed loyalty to this function.