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Ireland Essay Research Paper Ireland is an

Ireland Essay, Research Paper Ireland is an island country lying to the west of Great Britian. It is separated from Great Britain by St. George’s Channel, the Irish Sea

Ireland Essay, Research Paper

Ireland is an island country lying to the west of Great Britian. It

is separated from Great Britain by St. George’s Channel, the Irish Sea

and the Northern Channel. At its greatest length, from northeast to

southwest , it measures three hundred and two miles. The first human

settlements on the island on the northeastern edge of Europe were made

relatively late in European prehistory, about six thousand B.C. It

remained relatively uninhabited and uninvaded. The only knowledge of

this Ireland is through references in Greek and Roman literature and

pagan legends that survived into the Christian period. Sometime between

six hundred and one hundred fifty B.C. Celtic peoples from western

Europe, Known as Gaels, invaded and subdued the inhabitants.

The basic units of the Gaelic society were the tuatha, which were

petty kingdoms. They remained independent of each other but shared the

same common language, Gaelic. There were also a class of men called

brehons, “who were learned in customary laws and helped to

preserve throughout Ireland a uniform yet archaic social system.”

(Grolier) One reason for the unique nature of their society was that the

Romans, who had transformed the Celtic societies of Britain and other

societies with their armies, roads, administrative system and town

structures, never tried to conquer Ireland.

A result of Ireland’s isolation from Romanized

Europe was the development of a distinctive Celtic type of Christianity.

While Saint Patrick introduced Latin Christianity into the country in

the fifth century, the system of bishops with territorial dioceses which was

modeled on the Roman’s administrative system, it could not find security

in Ireland at the time.(Grolier) Though the independent tuath remained

the basic unit of Gaelic secular society, the sovereign monastery became

the basic unit of Celtic Christianity. During the sixth and seventh

centuries Irish monasteries were great centers of learning. Such

missionaries as Saint Columba and Saint Columban were sent out to the

rest of Europe. While the rest of Europe was in the Dark Ages, this

was Ireland’s golden age.(Grolier)

In the late Eighth century, Vikings from Scandinavia began to

raid Ireland. The other parts of Europe about this time were

responding to the pressures of the invasions by developing the system of

feudalism. However, the Gaelic society did not lend itself to such

developments because it lacked the heritage of Roman law that provided

the framework for the feudal system.(Grolier) The complex and detailed

kinship arrangements in which both property-holding and succession to

leadership roles were regulated by brehon laws. This impaired the

exchange of land for military service, a basic bargain underlying feudal

systems.

Eventually, the Gaelic society managed to organize resistance. In

1014, Irish forces led by King Brian Boru decisively defeated the

Vikings at the Battle of Contarf. King Brian was giving the title ” high

king of Ireland “. (Grolier) During Brian’ s tenure (1002-14) his power

throughout much of the island was insignificant. Without the

infrastructure of feudalism he was unable to make the transition from

symbolic kingship to effective monarch, which was beginning in other parts

of Europe.(Grolier) Though the Vikings were gone, they left their mark

upon the island by founding Ireland’s first cities, including

Dublin, Limerick and Waterford.

The unity experienced under Brian had long disappeared by the

time Ireland faced her next challenge. It came from, the highly effective

feudal monarchy founded by William the Conqueror after his invasion of

that country in 1066 from Normandy (Grolier), England. In 1171,

Henry II , a descendant of William, took advantage of a letter from

Pope Adrian IV. It authorized Henry to make himself overlord of

Ireland in order to bring the Irish Church more “in line with Roman

standards.”(Grolier) Many Anglo-Norman barons along with their

retainers had already seized large parts of Ireland when Henry himself

went to the island accompanied by an army to receive formal submission

of those barons and most Irish Kings.

In those areas where the Anglo-Norman barons settled and

scattered the native Gaelic aristocracy, a feudal system was established

similar to their native English and Norman lands. However, it was not

an effective centralized monarchy like the Norman feudalism favored

in England. (Grolier) The English government was usually distracted

and did issue much authority to the colony. Ireland was mainly divided

into three concentric regions in this time : 1. Dublin and its immediate

area, it was the only area where the English exercised any authority ;

2. a broad area of territories beyond Dublin which where semi-

independent fiefs of the great Anglo-Norman lords ; 3. territories on the

western coast of Ireland that retained Gaelic customs and remained

completely outside of the English rule. (Grolier)

The English colony in Ireland reached its peak in the early

fourteenth century. The Gaelic society was enjoying a considerable

resurgence. Not only by winning back territories from the colonists but

through the change of the Anglo-Normans into an ” Anglo-Irish ”

aristocracy. As Anglo-Normans intermarried with the natives and

adopted the Gaelic language and customs, they progressively became to be

” more Irish than the Irish “. (Grolier – O’Brien,34)

The Anglo-Norman conquest hurried reforms that brought the

Irish church more in line with Roman standards. English legal practices

and civil administration were introduced. Additionally, an Irish

parliament, modeled on the English one, was created in the late

thirteenth century. (Grolier)

By the end of the Middle Ages it became clear that the Anglo-

Norman conquest was a failure. In the sixteenth century the English

monarchs, Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I, made concerted

efforts to reconquer Ireland by use of military and by the establishment or

plantation of colonies of English settlers upon the island.(O’Brien,36)

However, Henry’s ties between the Church of England and the papacy

complicated the attempts of reconquest. In Ireland, unlike England,

there was practically no inherent sympathy with the Protestant

reformers among either the Gaelic-Irish or the Anglo-Irish.

Consequently, the trans-formation of the Church of Ireland into a

Protestant church was rejected overwhelming by the majority of the

population. (Grolier)

1. De Vere White, Terence. Ireland .

New York : Walker and Company. 1968.

2. ” Ireland “. Collier’s Encyclopedia .

volume 11, pages 131-144 1959 ed.

3. ” Ireland “. Encyclopedia Britannica .

volume 12, pages 592-620 1951 ed.

4. ” Ireland, history of. medieval Ireland”. Grolier Multimedia

Encyclopedia . Grolier Electronic Publishing, Inc. 1995 ed.

5. O’Brien, Elinor. The land and people of Ireland .

Philadelphia & New York : JB Lippincott Co. 1953

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