British Middle Ages—Ireland
450 to 1922
Life of Saint Patrick to Irish Independence
Ireland, like Scotland, was a Celtic country, with a language and culture different from their powerful neighbor England. Like Scotland, it had a long history of resisting English dominance and had been, for the greater part of history, antagonistic to England. But in spite of their similar Celtic heritage, the histories of Ireland and Scotland diverged dramatically, particularly at the time of the Reformation. During the late Tudor era, Scotland became Protestant, and Ireland remained Catholic. From that point on, Scotland and England, although remaining antagonistic on many points, were eventually able to merge their countries under a single protestant government, and live in relative peace. Ireland, on the other hand, became even more fiercely Catholic in response the oppressions of the English government, and the antagonism and hatred between the races, became ever worse over the years. When Scotland and England merged to become Great Britain, the Scotsmen enjoyed all due rights of citizenship. The greater population of Ireland, on the other hand, was entirely disenfranchised, dispossessed, and enjoyed no rights of self-government. It was ruled as a conquered colony, and badly ruled at that. As one politician stated in 1892: "the condition of Ireland is universally recognized as the chief scandal and chief weakness of the Empire." How it came to be so, is the sad story of Irish History.
St. Patrick and the Celtic Church
Ireland was converted to Catholicism by AD , an Irish Chieftain arose who managed to briefly unite the Irish tribes. He is credited with driving away the Vikings, although most of his wars were actually against other Irish clans. He governed well, but subsequent kings were less successful in holding the kingdom together.in the fifth century A.D. and after that time the Irish monasteries were centers of learning and scholarship. It was mainly Irish missionaries, such as St. Columba and St. Mungo who converted Scotland to Christianity a few decades later. Until the ninth century, the Celtic Church thrived, but then, like all of Western Europe, Ireland suffered from Viking attacks. The general disunity of the Irish tribes however, made it impossible for the Vikings to actually conquer Ireland and the relative scarcity of booty in the impoverished country, to some degree, discouraged the worst depredations. Finally, around 1000
The Normans in Ireland
One Hundred Years after the Normans conquered England, a Norman army was sent to conquer Ireland. The Normans succeeded in making many of the chieftains own them as overlords, but failed to actually impose a Norman government outside of a few towns on the eastern and northern coasts. Soon after the Battle of Bannockburn,, the Brother of , landed in Ireland with Scottish troops with the idea of driving the English out of Ireland. The attempt enjoyed early success, but eventually Bruce was killed, and the rebellion died with him. Over time however, English influenced decreased in Ireland, particularly during the , while for two generations, England was involved in a ruinous civil war.
Tudor Conquest of Ireland
Ireland, Cromwell and the Commonwealth
When the English Civil War broke out, the Irish took the opportunity to rebel, and in the Irish uprising of 1641, hundreds of Protestant settlers were slaughtered. Eventually the native Irish gentry and clergy put an end to the killing, and formed a defacto government, that ruled untilinvaded Ireland during the . At this time he took a terrible revenge for the Catholic outrages against Protestants which had occurred nearly a decade previously. At the Siege of Drogheda he ordered the indiscriminate slaughter of every man, woman, and child in the town, and all of Ireland was under his heel within a year. Cromwell remains one of the most hated characters of Irish History, and the atrocities committed on both sides during the civil war era did much to fan the religious hatreds of the following centuries.
Ireland suffered much under the commonwealth, but worse was yet to come. When the Catholicwas deposed from the English throne, Ireland immediately declared for him, and against . When the broke out, the Catholics laid siege to Protestant Londonderry, and the town was nearly starved when English reinforcements arrived. It was finally relieved when one of the English ships rammed through the boom that had prevented reinforcements and provisions from reaching the city. This unexpected setback sent the Irish army into confusion. The following year, the Irish resistance was firmly crushed at the Battle of Boyne, and the English victors took very hard measures to punish the rebels. Penal laws were now passed which not only disenfranchised, and dispossessed Catholics, but discriminated against them in all sorts of other ways, with the explicit intent to force them to convert to Protestantism or be driven to destitution. Instead of converting to Protestantism, however, the Irish only embraced their Catholicism, and suffered under horrible oppressions rather than convert to the religion of the hated English.
Eighteenth and Nineteenth century Ireland
By the mid-eighteenth century, there was a large native protestant Irish population, centered mainly in Ulster, and eastern coastal towns. Ireland, however, was governed as a colony, and inspired by the example set by the American Colonists, the local protestant population favored an independent parliament, and eventual Irish self-rule. The idea of extending the franchise to Catholics of course, occurred to no one, but the Protestant population, lead by, eventually won the right to hold a local parliament. Grattan, was himself sympathetic to granting a very limited franchise to the Catholic gentry, but such proposals only provoked a firestorm of controversy. Very soon after the establishment of the Irish Parliament, the occurred, an event which caused great consternation within England, particularly since the Irish Catholics were thought to be sympathetic to the Revolutionaries, and there was fear of an Irish alliance with France. Finally, in the did occur, and was accompanied by desperate atrocities on both sides. Grattan's parliament was dissolved, and the government of Ireland was taken under direct control of the English government. Ireland was absorbed into the "United Kingdom of Ireland and Great Britain", and although the Irish protestants were still able to elect representatives, they had to meet in London, and had virtually no clout within the English dominated Parliament.
Soon after the, a Catholic hero appeared on the scene. worked tirelessly for years to obtain the franchise for Irish Catholics, and eventually succeeded in doing so. He did this by actively foreswearing violence, and gaining support among protestants as well as Catholics. His heroic stance did much to advance the cause of Irish sympathy among the English, who feared the worst sort of violence were the Irish ever to gain political power. A few years later, spurred on by the Irish Potato famine, the English Parliament was compelled to abolish the corn-laws, which had done so much to create the crisis. Gradually, minor political relief was provided to Ireland, but their desire for Home Rule was violently opposed, not only by the English, but by many Irish Protestants. and were two statesmen who worked tirelessly for Irish reform, but could not manage to get a Home Rule bill through Parliament. There remained a violent and radical element to the Irish cause, which sabotaged the efforts of moderates to work out a compromise.
It was not until the midst ofthat another Irish uprising took place. This one began during the Easter season of 1916, but turned into a guerilla war for Irish Independence. The solution finally agreed to by parliament was to allow Irish counties to withdraw from the United Kingdom on an individual basis, meaning that the Protestant county of Ulster, would be allowed to retain its British identity. Although unpopular with the Irish Nationalists, the partition of Ireland finally occurred in 1922. Even today the republic Ireland includes only the provinces of Leinster, Munster, and Connacht, while Ulster is still governed as part of Great Britain.
|Declared himself king of Ireland and led a rebellion against the English governors of Ireland.|
|King who unified all of Ireland briefly before the Norman invasion.|
|Legendary hero of the Irish folklore.|
|Pretender to the throne of England during the reign of Henry Tudor.|
|Chieftain of the O'Neill clan of Ulster, under Queen Elizabeth.|
|Kidnapped as a child and brought to Ireland, returned later to spread Christianity.|
|Patron saint of Ireland (with Patrick). Founded a monastery at Kildare in Ireland.|
|Missionary who helped to christianize Scotland. Founded a monastery on Iona in Scotland.|
|Irish politician who strove to create and independent Irish Parliament. He resisted the Union of 1801.|
|Political leader of Irish Catholics during early 19th century. Promoted Catholic Emancipation.|
|Irish Catholic politician who fought for home rule for Ireland.|
|Elizabethan era poet. Wrote The Fairy Queen.|
|Poet, essayist, and satirist. Best known as author of Gulliver's Travels.|
|Poet and novelist, best known for The Vicar of Wakefield|
|450||converts Ireland to Christianity.|
|850||drives vikings out of Ireland, and briefly unites tribes.|
|1169||, puts east Ireland under nominal English control.|
|1315||, brother of , attempts to drive English out of Ireland.|
|1497||, pretender to English throne, lands in Dublin.|
|begins under Protestant rule.|
|Underthe English conquer Northern Ireland and assume control of Ulster.|
|Theleads to a major .|
|1641||Catholic uprisings tied to civil unrest in England; massacre of Protestants in Ulster.|
|1649||invades Ireland, slaughters civilians at the Siege of Drogheda.|
|, following the "Glorious Revolution" in Britain.|
|1688||Siege of Londonderry is relieved by protestant army.|
|1690||returns to France after the Battle of Boyne.|
|1691||Penal laws enforced which oppress, dispossess Irish Catholics.|
|1782||establishes independent Irish Parliament.|
|1798||occurs during the .|
|1801||Ireland (unwillingly) merged into the "United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland";|
|1829||"Catholic Emancipation" Catholics in Ireland allowed to vote.|
|Irish potato famine.|
|1869||Disestablishment of the Anglican Irish State Church|
|1882||Murder of Cavendish in Ireland.|
|1893||Home Rule Bill defeated by small majority.|
|1916||, raises sympathy for Irish Rebels.|
|1922||Partition of Ireland: Formation of Irish Free State.|
Read chapters from "core" texts before reviewing study questions.
Core Reading Assignments *
|Home - Ireland: Peeps at History||entire book|
|Towle - Young People's History of Ireland||entire book|
|Birkhead - Tales from Irish History||entire book|
|Hull - The Boys' Cuchulain||entire book|
|Chisholm - Celtic Tales Told to the Children||entire book|
|Stein - Our Little Celtic Cousin of Long Ago||entire book|
|Colum - The King of Ireland's Son||entire book|
|Harding - The Story of England||England and Ireland (1)|
|Tappan - European Hero Stories||Saint Patrick (1)|
|Synge - The Reign of Queen Victoria||Ireland and Famine to Irish Affairs (2)|
|Synge - Life of Gladstone||Home Rule to His Last Fight (2)|
|Gaskoin - The Hanoverians||Ireland (1)|
* Level I & II study questions are based on Core Reading Assignments.