'From Civil Rights to Armalites' describes and analyses political changes in Derry from the beginning of the civil rights movement in 1968 to the height of the 'Troubles' in 1972. The author examines how, in the course of those early years, conditions were created for a protracted conflict. The situation in Northern Ireland is distinguished above all by its duration. After rapidly pitching forward towards full-scale civil war in the early 1970's, the conflict was stabilized and brought under control. Despite predictions that the conflict would gradually dissipate it has persisted for over two decades.
The city of Derry has been a principal focus for the conflict. It was in Derry that the first rioting broke out, Derry which was the focus for the early civil rights campaign and to Derry that the first British troops were sent in August 1969. By analyzing the development and escalation of the conflict in Derry the book provides a detailed examination of a number of broader issues. It seeks to explain how the civil rights campaign was superseded by a conflict; how large sections of the Catholic community became actively hostile to the Northern Ireland State; how the Protestant community was transformed by events and why the British army became a major party to the conflict.
Ultimately, it is concerned to illustrate the way in which complex and durable relationships of confrontation were established, and how these relationships created a political framework within which conflict could be sustained for decades.