Making Ireland British, 1580-1650

Making Ireland British, 1580-1650

Making Ireland British, 1580-1650

Making Ireland British, 1580-1650

Synopsis

This is the first comprehensive study of all the plantations that were attempted in Ireland during the years 1580-1650. It examines the arguments advanced by successive political figures for a plantation policy, and the responses which this policy elicited from different segments of thepopulation in Ireland. The book opens with an analysis of the complete works of Edmund Spenser who was the most articulate ideologue for plantation. The author argues that all subsequent advocates of plantation, ranging from King James VI and I, to Strafford, to Oliver Cromwell, were guided by Spenser's opinions, and thatdiscrepancies between plantation in theory and practice were measured against this yardstick. The book culminates with a close analysis of the 1641 insurrection throughout Ireland, which, it is argued, steeled Cromwell to engage in one last effort to make Ireland British.

Excerpt

This book has been so long in the making that I can hardly remember a time when I have not been wrestling with questions concerning British settlement in Ireland, and the relationship between this engagement and simultaneous British involvement with North America. To the extent that, when I undertook my archival research, I was seeking after a deeper understanding of the place of Ireland in the history of Britain's overseas expansion, what I have accomplished may be described as an exercise in what is now fashionably known as Atlantic History. My persistent efforts to connect developments in Ireland with simultaneous happenings in England and Scotland would seem also to qualify the book for inclusion under the equally fashionable category of New British History. However, my concern to relate events in Ireland, and Britain, to happenings on the continent of Europe would suggest that I am indifferent to fashion when I treat the histories of these two islands as but parts of the history of Europe. Two other aspects of my work which might puzzle readers when they seek to categorize this as a book, and me as a historian, is first that I give equal attention to social, economic, religious, intellectual, and political factors in influencing the episodes I have chosen to study, and second that I put evidence from what used to be described as creative literature on an equal footing with that gleaned from official documents, and other more conventional sources.

What readers may find unusual, or even unsettling, in my method is accounted for by many considerations, of most of which I am but dimly aware. However, while cognizant that truth in any absolute sense is beyond the reach of any human being, I still believe that I have a responsibility as a historian to seek to understand what motivated those people from the past whose lives I have chosen to study, and to explain how their actions impacted upon the human condition in their own and in subsequent generations. To this end I have, in the course of writing this book, and throughout my scholarly career, eschewed trends and orthodoxies; I have pursued my enquiry wherever the evidence leads me; and I have tried, whenever possible, to write from original sources with a view to understanding people, and the events in which they engaged, on their own terms.

To facilitate this latter ambition I have striven to describe the various groups who are the subjects of my enquiry as they would have done themselves, in preference to labelling them with historians' descriptions. Thus, the settlers in these pages are variously English, New English, Scots, Welsh, and British, depending on the particular context; and those of Anglo-Norman descent are . . .

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