History of Ireland

From Academic Kids

Template:History of Ireland Ireland is an island in north-western Europe. The first settlers arrived between 8000 and 7000 BC; these were followed by the first Celtic-speaking people between 700 and 500 BC and Viking settlers in the ninth century AD. Until the fifteenth century Ireland was a patch-work of competing kingdoms and over-kingdoms. English involvement in Ireland began with the arrival of the Normans in the tenth century, but England did not have full control until the whole island had been conquered in 1653.

Prior to 1801 Ireland enjoyed a self-governing status under the Parliament of Ireland, but was ruled by its Anglo-Irish, Protestant minority. In 1801 this parliament was abolished and Ireland became an integral part of a new United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland under the Act of Union. In 1922, after the War of Independence, the southern twenty-six counties of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom (UK) and became the independent state known today as the 'Republic of Ireland'. The remainder of the island, known as 'Northern Ireland', remained part of the UK.

After independence in 1922 the southern state suffered from economic difficulties and mass emigration for many decades. However since the 1990s the Republic has been enjoying economic success. Since its establishment the history of Northern Ireland has been dominated by sectarian conflict between Catholics and Protestants. This conflict erupted into the Troubles in the late 1960s.


Early history c.8000 BC - 400AD

Main article: Early history of Ireland

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Ireland during the Ice Age.

What little is known of pre-Christian Ireland comes from a few references in Roman writings, Irish poetry and myth, and archaeology. The earliest inhabitants of Ireland, people of a mid-Stone Age, or Mesolithic, culture, arrived sometime after 8000 BC, when the climate had become more hospitable following the retreat of the polar icecaps. About three or four millennia later, agriculture was introduced from the continent, leading to the establishment of a high Neolithic culture, characterised by the appearance of huge stone monuments, many of them astronomically aligned (most notably, Newgrange). This culture apparently prospered, and the island became more densely populated. The Bronze Age, which began around 2500 BC, saw the production of elaborate gold and bronze ornaments and weapons.

The Iron Age in Ireland began about 600 BC. From about this time the main over-kingdoms of In Tuisceart, Airghialla, Ulaid, Mide, Lagain, Mumhain, Ol nEchmacht (later Ulster, Meath, Leinster, Munster, Connacht) began to emerge (see Kingdoms of ancient Ireland). Within these five or more kingdoms, despite constant strife, a rich culture flourished. The society of these kingdoms was dominated by druids: priests who served as educators, physicians, poets, diviners, and keepers of the laws and histories.

The language spoken by these people was later termed Goidelic, a branch of the Celtic languages. Despite this, the peoples of Ireland never referred to themselves as Celts, nor did they acknowledge any kinship with them. While it is reasonable to conclude that some Celtic peoples or dynasties made Ireland their home (especially the Roman conquest of Gaul and Britain), recent genetic research overwhelmingly demonstrates that the Irish do not have Celtic ansestry.

The Romans referred to Ireland as Hibernia. Ptolemy in AD 100 records Ireland's geography and tribes. Ireland was never formally a part of the Roman Empire but Roman influence was often projected well beyond formal borders. Tacitus writes that an Irish tribal chieftain was with Agricola in Great Britain and would return to seize power in Ireland. Juvenal tells us that Roman "arms had been taken beyond the shores of Ireland'. If Rome, or an ally, did invade, they didn't leave very much behind. The exact relationship between Rome and the tribes of Hibernia is unclear.

Early Christian Ireland 400-800

The middle centurys of the first millineum AD marked great changes in Ireland.

The carrear of Niall Noigiallach (died c.450/455) laid the basis for the U Nill dynasty's hegemoney over much of western, northern and central Ireland. Politically, the former emphasis on tribal affiliation had being replaced by the 700's by that of patrilinial and dynastic background. Many formerly powerful kingdoms and peoples disappeared. Irish pirates struck all over the coast of western Britain in the same way that the Vikings would later attack Ireland. Some of these founded entirely new kingdoms in Pictland, Wales and Cornwall. The Atticotti of south Leinster even served in the Roman Legions in the mid-to-late 300's.

Perhaps it was some of the latter returning home as rich mercenaries, or as slaves stolen from Britain or Gaul, that first brought the Christian faith to Ireland. Some early sources claim that there were missionaries active in southern Ireland long before St. Patrick. Whatever the route, and there were probably many, this new faith was to have the most profound effect on the Irish.

Tradition maintains that in AD 432, St. Patrick arrived on the island and, in the years that followed, worked to convert the Irish to Christianity. On the other hand, Palladius was sent to Ireland by the Pope in 431 as "first Bishop to the Irish beliving in Christ", which demonstrates that, by whatever means, there were already Christians living in Ireland. Palladius seems to have worked purely as Bishop to Irish Christians in the Leinster and Meath kingdoms, while Patrick - who is now believed to have arrived as late as 461 - worked first and foremost as a missionary to the Pagan Irish, converting in the more remote kingdoms located in Ulster and Connacht.

Patrick is credited, possibly too much so, with preserving the tribal and social patterns of the Irish, codifying their laws and changing only those that conflicted with Christian practices. He is credited with introducing the Roman alphabet, which enabled Irish monks to preserve parts of the extensive Celtic oral literature. While it is impossible to deny the very real effect Patrick had on his contemporaries, the fact remains that there were Christians in Ireland long before he came, and Pagans long after he died.

The druid tradition collapsed in the face of the spread of the new faith, and Irish scholars excelled in the study of Latin learning and Christian theology in the monasteries that flourished shortly thereafter. Missionaries from Ireland to England and Continental Europe spread news of the flowering of learning, and scholars from other nations came to Irish monasteries. The excellence and isolation of these monasteries helped preserve Latin learning during the Dark Ages. The arts of manuscript illumination, metalworking, and sculpture flourished and produced such treasures as the Book of Kells, ornate jewellery, and the many carved stone crosses that dot the island. Sites dating to this period include clochans, ringforts and promontory forts.

Early medieval era 800 - 1166

Main article Early Medieval Ireland 800-1166

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Viking raids in in 850.

This 'golden age' of Christian Irish culture was interrupted in the ninth century by the beginning of two-hundred years of intermittent warfare with waves of Viking raiders who plundered monasteries and towns.

Thorgest (in Latin Turgesius) was the first viking to attempt an Irish kingdom. He sailed up the Shannon and the River Bann, and forged a kingdom spanning Ulster, Connacht, and Meath which lasted from 831 to 845. In 845 he was killed by Maelsechlainn I, King of Meath.

In 848 Maelsechlainn, now High king, defeated a Norse army at Sciath Nechtain. Arguing that his fight was allied with the Christian fight against pagans, he requested aid from the Frankish emperor Charles the Bald, but to no avail.

In 852, the Vikings Ivar Beinlaus and Olaf the White landed in Dublin Bay and established a fortress, on which the city of Dublin (from the Irish Gaelic n Dubh Linn meaning the "black pool") now stands. This moment is generally considered to be the founding of modern-day Dublin, although Greek and Roman records mention a settlement called Eblana (or Deblana) on the same site as early as the 1st century AD. The Vikings founded many other seacoast towns, and after several generations a group of mixed Irish and Norse ethnic background arose (the so-called Gall-Gaels, Gall then being the Irish word for "foreigners" - the Norse). This Norse influence is reflected in the Norse-derived names of many contemporary Irish kings (e.g. Magnus, Lochlann, and Sitric), and DNA evidence in some residents of these coastal cities to this day.

In 914 an unstable peace between the Irish and the Norse devolved into a long and drawn-out war. The descendants of Ivar Beinlaus established a long dynasty based in Dublin, and from this base succeeded in dominating much of the isle. This rule was ultimately broken by the joint efforts of Maelsechlainn II, King of Meath and the famous Brian Boru, who afterwards became 'High King of Ireland'. Although the Irish were subsequently free from foreign invasion for 150 years, interdynastic warfare continued to drain their energies and resources. In 1150, Christian Malone, Abbot of Clonmacnoise, wrote a famous book entitled "Chronicum Scotorum". It is a chronology of Ireland from the Flood to the twelfth century.

Early Ireland had a fairly unique government. All men who owned land, all professionals, and all craftsmen, were entitled to become members of an assembly, known tuath. Each tuath's members formed an annual assembly which decided all common policies, declared war or peace on other tuatha, and elected or deposed their 'kings'. The tuath was thus a body of persons voluntarily united for socially beneficial purposes and the sum total of the landed properties of its members constituted its territorial dimension. About 80 to 100 tuatha coexisted at any time throughout Ireland.Template:Inote

The Coming of the Normans 1167-1185

Main article Norman Ireland 1167-1367

By the 12th century, Ireland was divided politically into a shifting hierarchy of petty kingdoms and over-kingdoms. Power was concentrated into the hands of a few regional dynasties contending against each other for control of the whole island. The Northern O'Neills ruled much of what is now Ulster. Their kinsmen, the Southern O'Neills, were Kings of Meath. The kingship of Leinster was held by the dynamic Ui Cheinnselaigh (modern Kinsella) dynasty. A new kingdom rose between Leinster and Munster, Osraige, ruled by the family of Mac Gilla Padraig. Munster was nominally controlled by the Mac Cartaig, who were however in reality often subject to the O Brians of Thomond. North of Thomond, Connacht's supreme rulers were the O Conchobair.

After losing the protection of High King Muirchertach MacLochlainn - who died in 1166 - the King of Leinster Diarmait Mac Murchada (anglicised as Diarmuid MacMorrough) was forcibly exiled from his kingdom by a confederation of Irish forces under the new High King, Ruaidri mac Tairrdelbach Ua Conchobair. Fleeing first to Bristol and then to Aquitaine, Diarmait obtained permission from Henry II to use his subjects to regain his kingdom. By 1167 he had obtained the services of the brothers Robert fitz Stephen and Maurice fitz Gerald, their first cousion Prince of Dehurbarth Rhys ap Gruyffd, and most importantly, Earl of Pembroke Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow.

The first Norman knight to land in Ireland was Richard fitz Godbert de Roche in 1167, but it was not until 1169 that the main forces of Normans, Welsh and Flemings landed in Leinster. Within a short time Leinster was regained, Waterford and Dublin were under Diarmait's control, and he had Strongbow as a son-in-law, whom he named as heir to his kingdom. This latter development caused consternation to King Henry II of England, who feared the establishment of a rival Norman state in Ireland. Accordingly, he resolved to visit Leinster to establish his authority.

Conveniently, Pope Adrian IV (the first English pope, in one of his earliest acts) had already issued a Papal Bull in 1155, giving Henry authority to invade Ireland as a means of curbing ecclesiastical corruption and abuses.

Henry landed with a large fleet at Waterford in 1171, becoming the first King of England to set foot on Irish soil. Both Waterford and Dublin were proclaimed Royal Cities. Adrian's successor, Pope Alexander III ratified the grant of Irish lands to Henry in 1172. Henry awarded his Irish territories to his younger son John with the title Dominus Hiberniae ("Lord of Ireland"). When John unexpectedly succeeded his brother as King John, the "Kingdom of Ireland" fell directly under the English Crown.

Henry had being happily acknowledged by most of the Irish Kings, who saw in him a chance to curb the expansion of both Leinster and the Normans. This led to the ratification of the Treaty of Winsor in 1175 between Henry and Ruaidri. However, with both Strongbow and Diarmuid dead (in 1171 and 1176), Henry back in England and Ruaidri unable to curb his nominal vassals, within two years it was not worth the vellum it was enscribed upon. John de Courcy invaded and gained much of east Ulster in 1177, Raymond le Gros had already captured Limerick and much of north Munster, while the other Norman families such as Prendergast, fitz Stephen, fitz Gerald, fitz Henry and le Poer were actively carving out virtual kingdoms for themselves.

The Lordship of Ireland 1185-1254

Initially the Normans controlled large swathes of Ireland, securing the entire east coast, from Waterford up to eastern Ulster and penatrating as far west as Galway and Mayo. The most powerful forces in the land were the great Anglo-Norman Earldoms such as the Geraldines, the Butlers and the Burkes, who controlled vast territories almost independent of the governments in Dublin or London. The Lord of Ireland was King John, who, on his visits in 1185 and 1210, had helped secure the Norman areas both from both the military and the administrative point of view, while at the same time ensuring that the many Irish kings were brought into his fealty; many, such as Cathal Crobderg Ua Conchobair, owed their thrones to him and his armies.

The Normans also were lucky to have leaders of the callibre of the Butler, Marshall, de Burgh, de Lacy and de Broase families, as well as having the dynamic heads of the first families. Another factor was that after the loss of Normandy in 1204, John had a lot more time to devote to Irish affairs, and did so effectively even from afar.

However, the Anglo-Normans suffered from a series of events that slowed and eventually ceased the spread of their settlement and power:

  • a resurgence of numerous Gaelic lords who at best stretched resources, at worst regained land from the Normans.
  • a lack of direction from both Henry III and his successor, Edward I who were more concerned with events in England, Wales, Scotland and their continental domains.
  • outright war between leading Hiberno-Norman lords such as the de Burghs, FitzGeralds, Butlers and de Berminghams.
  • division of estates among heiresses, the most damaging being that of the Marshalls of Leinster which split a large single lordship into five.

Politics and events in Gaelic Ireland served to draw the settlers deeper into the orbit of the Irish, which on occasion had the effect of allying them with one or more native ruler against other Normans.

Gaelic Resurgence, Norman Decline 1254-1367

Main article Irish Military Revival 1249-1367

Anglo-Norman Ireland was deeply shaken by three events of the 14th century.

The first was the invasion of Ireland by Edward Bruce of Scotland who, in 1315, rallied many of the Irish lords against the English presence in Ireland. Although Bruce was eventually defeated in Ireland at the battle of Faughart, near Dundalk, his troops caused a great deal of destruction, especially in the densely settled area around Dublin. In this chaotic situation, local Irish lords won back large amounts of land that their families had lost since the conquest and held them after the war was over.

The second was the murder of William Donn de Burgh, 3rd Earl of Ulster, in June 1333. This resulted in his lands being split in three among his relations, with the ones in Connacht swiftly rebelling against the Crown and openly sideing themselves with the Irish. This meant that virtually all of Ireland west of the Shannon was lost to the Anglo-Normans. It would be well over two hundred years before the Burkes, as they were now called, were again allied with the Dublin administration.

The third calamity for the medieval English presence in Ireland was the Black Death, which arrived in Ireland in 1348. Because most of the English and Norman inhabitants of Ireland lived in towns and villages, the plague hit them far harder than it did the native Irish, who lived in more dispersed rural settlements. The plague was a catastrophe for the English inhabitations around the country and after it had passed, Gaelic Irish language and customs came to dominate the country again. The English controlled area shrunk back to the Pale, a fortified area around Dublin.

Additional reasons behind the Gaelic revival were a sense of nationalism, political and personal grevinces against the Anglo-Normans, but espcially impatince with procastination and the very real horrors that successive famines had brought. Pushed away from the fertile areas, the Irish were forced to eke out a substience living on marginal lands, which left them with no safety net during a bad harvest year (such as 1271 and 1277) or in a year of famine (virtually the entire period of 1311-19).

The native Irish regained some more territory and outside the Pale, the Norman lords adopted the Irish language and customs, becoming known as the Old English, and in the words of a contemporary English commentator, became "more Irish than the Irish themselves." Over the following centuries they sided with the indigenous Irish in political and military conflicts with England and generally stayed Catholic after the Reformation. The authorities in the Pale grew so worried about the "Gaelicisation" of Ireland that they passed special legislation in a parliament in Kilkenny (known as the Statutes of Kilkenny) banning those of English descent from speaking the Irish language, wearing Irish clothes or inter-marrying with the Irish. Since the government in Dublin had little real authority however, this did not have much effect.

The Colony Isolated, Irish Kingdoms Renewed 1367-1536

Main article Anglo and Gaelic Ireland 1367-1536

Throughout the 15th century, these trends proceeded apace. The monarchy of England was itself in turmoil - being fought over in the Wars of the Roses. As a result, English interest in Ireland diminished further. The (English) Kings of Ireland effectively delegated their power over the Lordship of Ireland to the powerful Fitzgerald Earl of Kildare, who dominated the country by means of military force and alliances with lords and clans around Ireland.

The collapse of cental power in the colony gave rise to a number of important Irish kingdoms and lordships by the late 14th and early 15th centuries. They were:

  • Connacht. The O Conchobhair dynasty, despite their setback during the Bruce wars, had regrouped and ensured that the title King of Connacht was not yet an empty one. Their stronghold was in their homeland of Sil Muirdeag, from where they dominated much of northern and north-eastern Connacht. However, after the death of Ruaidri mac Tairdelbach Ua Conchobair in 1384, the dynasty split into two factions, O Conchobhair Donn and O Conchobhair Ruadh. Intercine warfare between the two branches had by the late 1400's weakened them to the point where they themselves became vassals of more powerful lords such as O Domhnaill of Tir Connail and Burke of Clanricarde.
The MacDermot Kings of Moylurg retained their status and kingdom during this era, and were frequently powerful kingmakers, right up to the death of Tadhg MacDermot in 1585 (last de facto King of Moylurg). Their cousins, the Mac Donnacha of Tir Ailella, found their fortunes bound to the O Conchobhair Ruadh. The kingdom of Hy-Many had lost much of its southern and western lands to the Clanricarde's, but managed to flourish until repeated raids by O Domhnaill in the early 1500's weakened it to mere lordship status. Other lordships such as O Flaithbeheraigh of Iar Connacht, O Shaughnessey of Aidhne, O Dubhda of Tireagh, O Hara, O Gara and O Maddan, either survived in isolation or were vassals for greater men.
  • Ulster: The Ulaidh proper were in a sorry state all during this era, being squeezed between the emergent O Neill of Tir Eoghain on the west, the MacDonnells, Clann Aodha Buidhe, and the Anglo-Norman Savages and Whites from the east. Only Mag Aonghusa managed to retain a portion of their former kingdom with expansion into Iveagh.
The two great success stories of this era were O Domhnaill of Tir Connaill and O Neill of Tir Eoghain. O Domhnaill was able to dominate much of northern Connacht to the detriment of its native lords, both Old English and Gaelic, though it took time to subborn the likes of O Conchobhair Sligigh and O Ruairc of Iar Brefine. Expansion southwards brought the hegemony of Tir Eoghan, and by extension O Neill influence, well into the border lordships of Lough and Meath. Mag Uidir of Fer Managh would slightly later be able to build his lordship up to that of third most powerful in the province, at the expense of the O Ruaircs of East Brefine and MacMahon.
  • Leinster: Likewise, despite the adverse effects (and unforseen) effects of Diarmait Mac Murchada's efforts to regain his kingdom, the fact of the matter was that of his twenty successors up to 1632, most of them had regained much of the ground the had lost to the Normans, and exacted yearly tribute from the towns. The O Brioin and O Tuathail largely contented themselves with raids on Dublin (which, incredibly, continued into the 18th centuary). The O Mordha of Laois and O Conchobhar Falaighe were two self-contained territories that had earned the right to be called kingdoms due to their near-invincibility against successive generations of Anglo-Irish. The great losers were the O Melaghlins of Meath: their kingdom had collapsed, and despite the near-superhuman marital prowess of Cormac mac Art O Melaghlain, the royal family were now reduced to vassal status clinging to the east shores of the Shannon.
  • Munster: Despite huge setbacks, the descendants of Brian Boru had, by surviving the Second Battle of Athenry and winning the decisive battles of Corcomroe and Dysert O'Dea, been able to subborn their vassals and eradicate the Normans from their home kingdom of Thomond. Their spheres of interest often met with conflict with Anglo-Normans such as the earls of Desmond and Ormonde, yet they ruled right up to the end of Gaelic Ireland, and beyond, by expedient of becomeing the O Brien Earls of Thomond. The three MacCarthys - Mac Carthaigh Mor, Mac Carthaigh Riabhach and Mac Carthaigh Muscraighe - were in the case of the latter two often mere satillites of others, while the Mac Carthaigh Mor managed to take advantage of Munster's unusually self-contained charecter and preserve the kingdom.
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Ireland in 1014: a patch-work of rival kingdoms.
The extent of Norman control of Ireland in 1300.
The extent of Norman control of Ireland in 1300.

Reformation and Protestant Ascendancy 1536-1801

Main Article Early Modern Ireland 1536-1691

The Reformation, during which, in 1536, Henry VIII broke with Papal authority, fundamentally changed Ireland. While Henry VIII broke English Catholicism from Rome, his son Edward VI of England moved further, breaking with Papal doctrine completely. While the English, the Welsh and, later, the Scots accepted Protestantism, the Irish remained Catholic. This fact which determined their relationship with the British state for the next four hundred years, as the Reformation coincided with a determined effort on behalf of the English state to re-conquer and colonise Ireland. The religious schism meant that the native Irish and the (Roman Catholic) Old English were excluded from power in the new settlement.

Re-conquest and rebellion

See also Tudor re-conquest of Ireland.

There is some debate about why Henry VIII decided to re-conquer Ireland. However the most immediate reason was that the Fitzgerald dynasty of Kildare, who had become the effective government of Ireland in the 15th century, had become very unreliable allies of the Tudor monarchs. Most seriously, they had invited Burgundian troops into Dublin to crown the Yorkist pretender, Lambert Simnel as King of England in 1497. The final straw for the Tudor monarchs came in 1536, when Silken Thomas Fitzgerald went into open rebellion against the crown. Having put down this rebellion, Henry VIII resolved that pacifying Ireland and bringing it all under English government control was necessary if the island was not to become a base for foreign invasions of England (a concern that was to be repeated for another 500+ years).

Ireland was upgraded from a lordship to a full kingdom under Henry VIII. From the period of the original lordship in the twelfth century onwards, Ireland had retained its own bicameral Parliament of Ireland, consisting of a House of Commons and a House of Lords. It was restricted for most of its existence in terms both of membership — Catholics were barred after 1641 — and of powers, notably by Poynings Law of 1494, which said that no bill could be introduced into the Irish Parliament without the approval of the English Privy Council. With the institutions of government in place, the next step was to extend the control of he English Kingdom of Ireland over all of its claimed territory. Henry VIII's officials were tasked with extending the rule of this new Kingdom throughout Ireland, in the process either negotiating or fighting with the independent Irish lordships. This took nearly a century to achieve.

In the Elizabethan era, the English completed the re-conquest of Ireland, after bloody conflicts such as the Desmond Rebellions and the Nine Years War. However, the English were not successful in converting the Irish to Protestantism, alienating much of the native population. In addition the brutal methods used to pacify the country heighened resentment against English rule. In the 16th early seventeenth century, English governments instituted a policy of colonisation known as Plantations. Scottish and English Protestants were sent as colonists to the provinces of Munster, Ulster and the counties of Laois and Offaly (see also Plantations of Ireland). These settlers, who had a British and Protestant identity, would form the ruling class of future British government in Ireland. A series of Penal Laws discriminated against all Christian faiths other than the established (Anglican) Church of Ireland. The principal victims of these laws were Roman Catholicism and (to a lesser extent) Presbyterianism.

Civil Wars and Penal Laws

In the mid seventeenth century, Ireland was convulsed by eleven years of warfare, beginning with the Rebellion of 1641, when the Irish Catholics rebelled against English and Protestant domination. The Catholic majority briefly ruled the country as Confederate Ireland during the subsequent Wars of the Three Kingdoms until Oliver Cromwell re-conquered the country in 1649-1653 on behalf of the English Commonwealth. As punishment for the rebellion, almost all lands owned by Irish Catholics were confiscated and given to British settlers. An uneasy peace returned with the Restoration of the monarchy in England and Charles II made some efforts to conciliate Irish Catholics.

However, within a generation, Ireland was at war again. Ireland became the main battleground in the Glorious Revolution of 1689, when the Catholic James II was deposed by the English Parliament and replaced by William of Orange. Irish Catholics backed James to try to reverse the Penal Laws and land confiscations, whereas Irish and British Protestants supported William to preserve their domiance in the country. James and William fought for the English, Scottish and Irish thrones in the Williamite War, most famously at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, where James was beaten. Jacobite resistance was finally ended after the Battle of Aughrim in July 1691. The Penal laws (which had been allowed to lapse somewhat after the English Restoration) were re-applied with great harshness after this war, as the Protestant elite wanted to ensure that the Irish Catholic landed classes would not be in a position to repeat their rebellions of the 17th century.

Colonial Ireland

Main article Ireland 1691-1801

Subsequent Irish antagonism towards England was aggravated by the economic situation of Ireland in the eighteenth century. Throughout the century English trade with Ireland was the most important branch of English overseas trade1. The Protestant Anglo-Irish absentee landlords drew off some 800,000 in the early part of the century, rising to 1 million, in an economy that amounted to about 4 million. Completely deforested of timber for exports and for a temporary iron industry in the course of the seventeenth century, Irish estates turned to the export of salt beef and pork and butter and hard cheese through the slaughterhouse and port city of Cork, which supplied England, the British navy and the sugar islands of the West Indies. The bishop of Cloyne wondered "how a foreigner could possibly conceive that half the inhabitants are dying of hunger in a country so abundant in foodstuffs?"2. In the 1740s, these economic inequalities led directly to the Great Irish Famine (1740-1741), which killed about 400,000 people. In the 1780s, under pressure from salted meat exported from the Baltic and from America, the Anglo-Irish landowners rapidly switched to growing grain for export, while the Irish themselves ate potatoes and groats.

By the late eighteenth century, many of the Irish Protestant elite had come to see Ireland as their native country. A Parliamentary faction led by Henry Grattan agitated for a more favourable trading relationship with England and for legislative independence for the Parliament of Ireland. Many of their demands were met, in part through a campaign led by Grattan amongst others. However, reform in Ireland stalled over the proposals of some radicals to enfranchise Irish Catholics. When this failed, some in Ireland were attracted to the more militant example of the French revolution of 1789. They formed the Society of the United Irishmen to overthrow British rule and found a non-sectarian republic. Their activity culminated in the Irish Rebellion of 1798, which was bloodily suppressed. Partly in response to this rebellion, in 1801 Irish self-government was abolished altogether.

Union with Great Britain (1801-1922)

In 1800 the Irish Parliament passed the Act of Union which, in 1801, merged the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The whole island of Ireland would remain within the United Kingdom, rule directly by the UK Parliament in London. The nineteenth century saw considerable economic difficulties for Ireland, including the Great Famine of the 1840s in which at least 750,000 people died and over a million were forced to emigrate.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw a vigorous but unsuccessful campaign for Irish home rule, followed by the eclipse of moderate nationalism by militant separatism. In 1922, following the Anglo-Irish War, the twenty-six counties of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom as the Irish Free State. The remaining six, in the north-east, remained within the Union as Northern Ireland. Secession for the rest of Ireland led directly to the Civil War, as militant nationalists split into two factions and turned against one another.

History since partition

Irish Independence: The Irish Free State, ire/Ireland, The Republic of Ireland

The Anglo-Irish Treaty was narrowly ratified by the Dil in December 1921 but was rejected by a large minority, resulting in the Irish Civil War which lasted until 1923. In 1922, in the middle of this civil war, the Irish Free State came into being. For its first years the new state was governed by the victors of the Civil War. However in the 1930s Fianna Fil, the party of the opponents of the treaty, were elected into government. The party introduced a new constitution in 1937 which renamed the state to simply "ire or in the English language, Ireland" (preface to the Constitution).

The state was neutral during World War II but offered some assistance to the Allies. In 1949 the state declared itself to be a republic and that henceforth it should be described as the Republic of Ireland. The state was plagued by poverty and emigration until the 1990s. That decade saw the beginning of unprecedented economic success, in a phenomenon known as the "Celtic Tiger". By the early 2000s, it had become one of the richest countries (in terms of GDP per capita) in the European Union, moving from being a net recipient to a net contributor and from a population with net emigration to one with net immigration.

Northern Ireland

From its creation in 1921 until 1972 Northern Ireland enjoyed limited self-government within the United Kingdom, with its own parliament and prime minister. However the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland each voted almost entirely along sectarian lines, meaning that the government of Northern Ireland was dominated by the Unionist majority which did not permit Catholics to participate in the government.

Nationalist grievances at Unionist discrimination within the state eventually led to large civil rights protests in 1960s. It was during this period of civil unrest that the Provisional IRA, an extra-legal paramilitary group favouring the creation of a united Ireland, began its campaign of bombings and shootings. Other groups on both the Unionist and nationalist side also began to participate in the violence and the period known as the "Troubles" began. Owing to the civil unrest the British government suspended home rule in 1972 and imposed direct rule.

In 1998, following a Provisional IRA cease-fire, the Good Friday Agreement was concluded and attempts began to be made to restore self-government to Northern Ireland on the basis of power sharing between the two communities. Violence has greatly decreased since the signing of the accord.


Note 1: See: Braudel, F, 1979.

Note 2: See: Plumb, J.H., 1973.


  • "Irish Kings and High Kings", Francis John Byrne, Dublin, 1973.
  • "A New History of Ireland: I - PreHistoric and Early Ireland", ed. Daibhi O Croinin. 2005
  • "A New History of Ireland: II- Medieval Ireland 1169-1534", ed. Art Cosgrove. 1987.
  • Braudel, Fernand, The Perspective of the World, vol III of Civilization and Capitalism (1979, in English 1985)
  • Plumb, J.H., England in the 18th Century, 1973: "The Irish Empire"
  • Murray N. Rothbard, For a New Liberty, 1973, online (http://www.mises.org/rothbard/newliberty.asp#preface).

Further reading

  • S.J. Connolly (editor) The Oxford Companion to Irish History (Oxford University Press, 2000) [a must for all students of Irish history]
  • Tim Pat Coogan De Valera (Hutchinson, 1993) [worth reading, though deeply hostile to de Valera]
  • Norman Davies The Isles: A History (Macmillan, 1999) [fascinating read, but with some inaccuracies when dealing with the 20th century]
  • Nancy Edwards, The archaeology of early medieval Ireland (London, Batsford 1990).
  • R. F. Foster Modern Ireland, 1600-1972
  • Joseph Lee The Modernisation of Irish Society 1848-1918 (Gill and Macmillan) [classic small history of the period]
  • FSL Lyons Ireland Since the Famine [old, but still a classic]
  • Dorothy McCardle The Irish Republic [old but impressive text, written from a pro-de Valera perspective]
  • James H. Murphy Abject Loyalty: Nationalism and Monarchy in #Ireland During the Reign of Queen Victoria (Cork University Press, 2001) [fascinating new book that puts 19th century Ireland in a new perspective]
  • John A. Murphy Ireland in the Twentieth Century (Gill and Macmillan) [good source of information]
  • Frank Packenham (Long Longford) Peace by Ordeal [The definitive account of the Anglo-Irish Treaty negotiations]
  • Alan J. Ward The Irish Constitutional Tradition: Responsible Government & Modern Ireland 1782-1992 (Irish Academic Press, 1994)

See also

External links

es:Historia de Irlanda fr:Histoire de l'Irlande he:היסטוריה של אירלנד nl:Geschiedenis van Ierland


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