First of the Small Nations traces the ideas and aspirations of the revolutionary generation in Ireland from the 1890s to 1918 who dreamt of an independent Irish state and imagined how an Irish foreign policy might look. It follows attempts to put these ideas into practice during the campaign for independence and how they evolved into the first Irish foreign policy in the decade after independence. During these years, efforts were focused on asserting the young Irish state's independence as it pushed out the boundaries of Commonwealth membership, made a contribution at the League of Nations, and forged ties in Europe and America.
Many of the ideas that continue to shape Irish foreign policy - small state and European country; honest broker and international good citizen; mother-country with a diaspora and bridge between Europe and America - have their roots in this period. There is a strong modern and internationalist vein running through Irish nationalism, including outside ideas on how the international order should be arranged - from the desire to pursue a policy based on values, to attempts to create an international rationale for independence, and an understanding of the influence of public opinion.
First of the Small Nations also shines a light on interwar European relations and how small states managed their affairs in a world system dominated by their larger neighbours. Drawing on a rich vein of archival sources and private papers, this study charts the beginnings of Irish foreign policy and the aspiration to be 'first of the small nations'.