The political, social and cultural transformation of Ireland in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries constituted ‘a world turned upside down’. Introduction
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries have been quite chaotic and were uncertain times for its inhabitants compared to Ireland’s relatively peaceful prehistory. Of course there have been major events in Irish prehistory, like the arrival and settlement of several tribes – the Celts, the Vikings and the Anglo-Normans – and the introduction of Christianity (Catholicism) by Saint Patrick around 432AD (Moody and Martin, 1984), but this was in no proportion to the major events on the European Continent – religious wars and battles of conquest – during the periods of the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages. However, this was going to change by the arrival of New English settlers in Ireland, at the end of the sixteenth century but especially at the beginning and halfway of the seventeenth century, whose aims were not to live in peaceful harmony with the Gaelic Irish and respect their habits and traditions, but to dominate them. Because the New English’ way of living – the English language, their clothes, the Protestant religion etc – was in their eyes superior, especially compared with the Gaelic Irish’ way of living – the Gaelic language, their clothes and the Roman Catholic religion – it was crucial and an important strategy for them to transform these habits and thus to civilize the “barbaric” Irish. The Roman Catholic majority attempted to struggle against it; a period of Rebellion, Restoration and the Jacobite war followed, and eventually this led to Protestant hegemony and complete Catholic suppression. For the former native Gaelic Irish and Old English inhabitants their ‘world turned upside down’. To describe the political, social and cultural transformations which took place due to New English settling during the seventeenth and eighteenth century in Ireland, it is important to form a picture of the context before that period.
The context of Ireland pre 1600AD
The majority of the population in Ireland before 1600AD consisted of Gaelic Irish and a minority of Old English. The Gaelic Irish being Celts and other tribes, including Vikings, arrived late BC up to 1100AD and settled themselves throughout Ireland. Since the introduction of Christianity during the fifth and sixth century they were all converted to Roman Catholicism. The Old English being Normans – or specifically Anglo-Normans because they came from England after their invasion of Wales under William the Conqueror a century before – arrived in Ireland from 1169AD up to the 1300s and settled themselves in the Pale area around Dublin. They became the ruling class in Ireland, introduced the authority of landlordism and developed the Irish Counties later on. To maintain their power they founded the Irish parliament in 1297, which represented only the Old English, because the Gaelic Irish refused to respect the authority, and therefore were not eligible to either vote or stand for office (Moody and Martin, 1984). Although the Old English’ purpose in the beginning was to colonize Ireland and introduce English language and manners, some of them became more and more integrated with the Gaelic Irish after some time and adopted the native language and its cultural aspects, like poetry and music. This occurred also because of intermarriages, especially in the counties outside the Pale area – such as Cork, Wexfort and Tipperary –, where Old English landlords like the White, Butler and Fitzgerald families became indistinguishable from the surrounding Gaelic landlords (Butler, 2006). The majority of these Old English mercenaries had also a Roman Catholic persuasion, and therefore Roman Catholicism was the religious context of that time. By the end of the fifteenth century the area of Old English control declined till the Pale area and at the beginning of the sixteenth century Royal rule had further shrunk to...
Bibliography: - Butler, D.J. 2006. South Tipperary, 1570-1841: Religion, land and Rivalry. Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts Press;
- Dickson, D. 2000. New foundations, Ireland 1660-1800. Dublin, Ireland: Irish Academic Press;
- Moody, TW & Martin, FX. 1984. The Course of Irish History. Cork, Ireland: The Mercier Press;
- Simms, J.G. 1986. War and politics in Ireland, 1649-1730. London, England: The Hambledon Press.
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