Ireland Essay, Research Paper
IrelandIreland is an island country lying to the west of Great Britian. Itis separated from Great Britain by St. George’s Channel, the Irish Seaand the Northern Channel. At its greatest length, from northeast tosouthwest , it measures three hundred and two miles. The first humansettlements on the island on the northeastern edge of Europe were maderelatively late in European prehistory, about six thousand B.C. Itremained relatively uninhabited and uninvaded. The only knowledge ofthis Ireland is through references in Greek and Roman literature andpagan legends that survived into the Christian period. Sometime betweensix hundred and one hundred fifty B.C. Celtic peoples from westernEurope, Known as Gaels, invaded and subdued the inhabitants. The basic units of the Gaelic society were the tuatha, which werepetty kingdoms. They remained independent of each other but shared thesame common language, Gaelic. There were also a class of men calledbrehons, “who were learned in customary laws and helped topreserve throughout Ireland a uniform yet archaic social system.”(Grolier) One reason for the unique nature of their society was that theRomans, who had transformed the Celtic societies of Britain and othersocieties with their armies, roads, administrative system and townstructures, never tried to conquer Ireland. A result of Ireland’s isolation from RomanizedEurope was the development of a distinctive Celtic type of Christianity.While Saint Patrick introduced Latin Christianity into the country inthe fifth century, the system of bishops with territorial dioceses which wasmodeled on the Roman’s administrative system, it could not find securityin Ireland at the time.(Grolier) Though the independent tuath remainedthe basic unit of Gaelic secular society, the sovereign monastery becamethe basic unit of Celtic Christianity. During the sixth and seventhcenturies Irish monasteries were great centers of learning. Suchmissionaries as Saint Columba and Saint Columban were sent out to therest of Europe. While the rest of Europe was in the Dark Ages, thiswas Ireland’s golden age.(Grolier)In the late Eighth century, Vikings from Scandinavia began toraid Ireland. The other parts of Europe about this time wereresponding to the pressures of the invasions by developing the system offeudalism. However, the Gaelic society did not lend itself to suchdevelopments because it lacked the heritage of Roman law that providedthe framework for the feudal system.(Grolier) The complex and detailedkinship arrangements in which both property-holding and succession toleadership roles were regulated by brehon laws. This impaired theexchange of land for military service, a basic bargain underlying feudalsystems. Eventually, the Gaelic society managed to organize resistance. In1014, Irish forces led by King Brian Boru decisively defeated theVikings at the Battle of Contarf. King Brian was giving the title ” highking of Ireland “. (Grolier) During Brian’ s tenure (1002-14) his powerthroughout much of the island was insignificant. Without theinfrastructure of feudalism he was unable to make the transition fromsymbolic kingship to effective monarch, which was beginning in other partsof Europe.(Grolier) Though the Vikings were gone, they left their markupon the island by founding Ireland’s first cities, including
Dublin, Limerick and Waterford. The unity experienced under Brian had long disappeared by thetime Ireland faced her next challenge. It came from, the highly effectivefeudal monarchy founded by William the Conqueror after his invasion ofthat country in 1066 from Normandy (Grolier), England. In 1171,Henry II , a descendant of William, took advantage of a letter fromPope Adrian IV. It authorized Henry to make himself overlord ofIreland in order to bring the Irish Church more “in line with Romanstandards.”(Grolier) Many Anglo-Norman barons along with theirretainers had already seized large parts of Ireland when Henry himselfwent to the island accompanied by an army to receive formal submissionof those barons and most Irish Kings. In those areas where the Anglo-Norman barons settled andscattered the native Gaelic aristocracy, a feudal system was establishedsimilar to their native English and Norman lands. However, it was notan effective centralized monarchy like the Norman feudalism favoredin England. (Grolier) The English government was usually distractedand did issue much authority to the colony. Ireland was mainly dividedinto three concentric regions in this time : 1. Dublin and its immediatearea, 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 thewestern coast of Ireland that retained Gaelic customs and remainedcompletely outside of the English rule. (Grolier)The English colony in Ireland reached its peak in the earlyfourteenth century. The Gaelic society was enjoying a considerableresurgence. Not only by winning back territories from the colonists butthrough the change of the Anglo-Normans into an ” Anglo-Irish “aristocracy. As Anglo-Normans intermarried with the natives andadopted 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 theIrish church more in line with Roman standards. English legal practicesand civil administration were introduced. Additionally, an Irishparliament, modeled on the English one, was created in the latethirteenth 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 Englishmonarchs, Henry VIII, Mary I and Elizabeth I, made concertedefforts to reconquer Ireland by use of military and by the establishment orplantation of colonies of English settlers upon the island.(O’Brien,36)However, Henry’s ties between the Church of England and the papacycomplicated the attempts of reconquest. In Ireland, unlike England,there was practically no inherent sympathy with the Protestantreformers among either the Gaelic-Irish or the Anglo-Irish.Consequently, the trans-formation of the Church of Ireland into aProtestant church was rejected overwhelming by the majority of thepopulation. (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 MultimediaEncyclopedia . 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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