10,010 BMH to 171 BMH

Reads: 108  | Likes: 1  | Shelves: 1  | Comments: 0

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: May 12, 2019

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 12, 2019



8,000 BC (10,010 BMH):


Around this time the first men arrived in Scotland. Ireland was not originally Celtic but Neolithic. The Celts were to arrive during the second half of the millennium BC,  and absorbed much of Neolithic culture. Estimates as to when the Gaels arrived range from 4000 BC to the first few centuries BC.


3,000 BC (5,010 BMH):


Tombs from this period have been found in passage-graves in the Boyne valley.

At this time, Ireland was a simple agricultural society. Irish art had begun to develop. The people had come as invaders, and more invaders followed from Britain, France and Spain. Ornaments, coins and weaponry from the Bronze and Iron Age have been uncovered by archaeologists.

The Romans never conquered Ireland, although it is a matter of controversy whether they actually set foot on the island. Ireland was a society of independent tribal kingdoms who lived by agriculture, raiding and fighting with continuous shifts in alliances.

The early pagan Gaels’ High Kings have left behind raths (ring forts) on the Hill of Tara. They claimed to be rulers of all Ireland but weren’t so in a modern way. Rather, they spend time defending their symbolic title against other kings. 

Despite tribal groupings, the people shared the Brehon Law, a common history, oral poetry, music and language. They referred to themselves as ‘men of Ireland’ and shared a cultural identity which could be thought of as a form of nationhood. Celtic culture involved druids, bardic praise-poetry and clientship. The Irish language was heavily influenced by pre-Celtic tongues. Cults and occupations were carried over from Neolithic times.  Some tribes such as the Brigantes lived in both Britain and Ireland. Britain and Ireland shared languages, dominant aristocracies and populations (like the Cruithni/Picti).

century (1,810 to 1,711 BMH):

Rome influenced Ireland more in the fourth century and after. As the Romans lost their grip on Britain, the Irish and Picts began to invade.

367 AD (1,653 BMH):

The Irish, Picts and Saxons launched a concerted raid on Britain.

and early 5th century (1,640 to 1,580 BMH):


Christian missionaries arrived, probably from Gaul.


Irish settlements began in the west of Britain. North and south-west Wales, Cornwell and Devon were colonised. The most successful colony was the Dál-Riata in Scotland. Colonisation and raids on Britain influenced Irish culture. Romanisation began in the fifth century, derived from the Romano-British culture of western Britain. The Ogham alphabet clearly came from Latin.

431 AD (1,679 BMH): 

Palladius went as bishop to ‘the Irish who believe in Christ’. This was to oppose the Pelagian heresy.

432 AD (1,678 BMH):

St Patrick arrived to convert the kings. Conversion was slow, although St Patrick was not the only missionary. A Gaelic-Christian golden age was to follow.

St Patrick was a Romano-Briton who had been enslaved by Irish raiders, before escaping and turning to religion. He drove out traditional pagan rites, leading to a fusion of Gaelic culture with Christianity. Irish Christianity ‘shone like a beacon in Europe’ after the fall of Rome. The seventh and eighth centuries saw a Gaelic golden age when Irish history was documented and great works of art were fashioned.

500s (1,510 to 1,411 BMH): 

Christianity matured slowly in a stable society. The king of Tara in the middle of the sixth century was still pagan. Monasticism made strides during this century, influenced by the British church. Monasteries were originally strict retreats from the world, but became wealthy and influential, bearing a rich literary and artistic culture. As time passed the monasteries grew into little cities with a variety of inhabitants. Provincial kings lived in some of them. Several monasteries owned huge tracts of land and were ruled by worldly and wealthy abbots.

Irish schools in the late sixth and seventh centuries achieved great scholarship, and many poets and lawyers were also clerics. Laws were created for church and secular society. The problem of inherited non-Christian customs, ‘fenechas’, was resolved by regarding it as the Old Testament of their race, cleansed by St Patrick. New laws were influenced by the Biblical Old Testament.

600s (1,410 to 1,311 BMH):

During this time, the cult of St Patrick spread.

A prehistory of the Irish race was written to unite all the people of Ireland. All people were supposed to be descended from the same ancestors, and Irish was constructed from the best elements of the Tower of Babel.The concept of a kingship of Ireland first appeared and the Uí Neíll claimed kingship over all Ireland, over all provincial kings, although they never achieved their goal. Numerous shifts in power and boundary changes occurred. Another powerful tribe to fight against the Uí Neíll were the Eóganacht.

600s – 800s (1,410 – 1,111 BMH):

The arts (metal-work, illumination, calligraphy) flowered in the monasteries. Iona and Armagh were the greatest ecclesiastical power-centres. Iona was founded by Columba and Armagh by Patrick.

The church’s power structure was complex, with individual churches being highly independent. Some were free while others were owned by aristocrats or monasteries.  Churches could be tiny or vast monasteries. Bishops were appointed to oversee the clergy. The relationship between church and people was a contract with mutual obligations. The church supplied religious services while the people paid dues.

Three social classes existed during this age – kings, lords and commoners. Lords were wealthy and had clients (bondsmen). Commoners were freemen with full legal rights and their own land. Some were well off (the bóaire). There were also landless men and hereditary serfs. Status was important in the legal system – rights and legal compensations depended on it. Under clientship, lords granted the client a fief (goods) and protection; the client made payments to the lord. There was free and base clientship – free clients were often nobles, and took a share in their lord’s plunder. Base clientship was like a loan, from which the lord came out best. Slavery was extensive.

The family, not the individual, was the legal unit – extended family, not conjugal family, which meant the male-line descendants of a great-grandfather. Divorce and polygamy were common, going back to the pre-Augustinian attitudes to marriage. Polygamy remained until the end of the Middle Ages. With nobles having many children, these slipped socially downwards and displaced the commoners.

The population was between half and one million. Much of the land was wilderness and uninhabited. The more powerful – any farmers with land – owned ringforts to protect their farms. Land was farmed in strips; milk and dairy was important. The upper classes ate a lot of meat, which formed a normal part of clients’ payments. Grain was also vital – oat for porridge, barley for ale and bread. Vegetables were grown on a small scale and wild fruit and nuts were important in people’s diet. Famine was common, coupled with disease, social disorder and internal migration. Epidemics occurred repeatedly.

Kings played a key role. In their sagas, they are semi-sacred. There were three grades of king. The lowest grade were on their way out in the 700s. The church backed the kings of provinces in their dynastic struggles, and the kings defended the church. The churchmen developed the idea of the ordained and consecrated king; they wrote that the king should be obeyed and respected, but should not tax too much.

793 (1,217 BMH):

Lindisfarne attacked by Vikings.

795 (1,215 BMH):

The first Vikings arrived in Ireland, pirates led by aristocrats. Their first targets included Rathlin and Iona. They harassed Irish homesteads and monasteries for more than a century, meeting no organised national resistance.


798 (1,212 BMH):


St Patrick’s Island monastery was smashed.

800s (1,210 to 1,111 BMH): 

By the middle of this century, the Dál Riata had control of all Pictland, uniting Scotland under Kenneth mac Alpine.

Viking traders brought slaves into Ireland from now until the 1000s.

802 (1,208 BMH): 

Burning of Iona.

806 (1,204 BMH):

Another massacre at Iona, in which 68 monks died. More attacks followed. The Irish had some successes in striking back.

830s (1,180 to 1,171 BMH):

Viking raids became more intense.

836 (1,174 BMH):

The first known inland raid took place.

840 (1,170 BMH):

Vikings began setting up defended bases and their attacks became so intense that it seemed the country was about to be conquered. The Irish kings and abbots counter-attacked with growing success.

842 (1,168 BMH):

First Viking-Irish alliance. These alliances became common.


century (1,170 to 1,141 BMH):

Dublin became the most important Viking city.

860s (1,150 to 1,141 BMH):

The Vikings turned to England. 

914 - 930s (1,096 to 1,071 BMH):

Second Viking period. After beating the Uí Neílls, the Dublin Vikings were powerful for a while. No great monasteries were ever destroyed, even in Dublin. The Vikings didn’t cause the passing of the ‘old order’ and weren’t actually responsible for the abuses of the church they have been blamed for, such as married clergy. The monasteries, through their associations with aristocratic families, were often involved in battle already. Churches were also attacked for their supplies during famines.

928 (1,082 BMH):

Viking massacre at Dunmore Cave, Kilkenny.

940s – 960s (1,070 to 1,041 BMH):

Dublin boomed as a great European trading city. While in Scotland the incomers were farmers and fishermen, in Ireland they were merchants and seamen. 

The Uí Neíll clan was locked in an internal power struggle during this time. 

956 – 980 (1,054 to 1,030 BMH):

Domnall ua Néill was King of Tara, High King of Ireland.

976 (1,034 BMH): 

Brian Boru became king of the Dal Cais, becoming a serious rival to the Uí Neílls. Supported by the Ostmen, he conquered Dublin and Leinster, and then the whole country.

1002 (1,008 BMH):

Boru demanded that Mael Sechnaill recognise him as King of Ireland. 

1005 (1,005 BMH):

Brian Boru was declared Emperor of the Irish at Armagh.


1014 (996 BMH):

Brian Boru defeated the Vikings at Clontarf. The army he fought contained both Norsemen from Dublin and Leinster Irishmen. Boru was not supported by the other great kings, and he himself was killed by a Danish king named Brodar.

Gradually the Norsemen became part of Ireland. They build the first Irish towns such as Arklow and Wexford, intermarried with Gaelic Irish and settled into a Gaelic pattern of warring kings.

/ 12th century (1,010 to 811 BMH):

The Irish church was beginning to look old-fashioned. The abbots, usually laymen, were too powerful. The laity attitude to marriage was also criticised. A general reorganisation took place, giving the church its current diocesan organisation. A national church under Armagh was created. Foreign orders, especially the Cistercians, took over the monasteries. Irish literature, culture and learning suffered. The church scholars moved out and clerical lawyers became secularised.

1014 – 1022 (996 to 988 BMH):

Mael Sechnaill II acted as ‘high king’ of Ireland. Provincial kings were growing more powerful; warfare increased. More administrators were needed to mind kingdoms in the king’s absence. Kings were granting away large territories and carving them up between their supporters. They also made laws and imposed taxes. They granted land in return for homage and military service.

1086 – 1114 (924 to 896 BMH):

Ireland's most powerful king was Muirchertach O’Brien.

century) (940 to 911 BMH):

Trade began to focus on Anglo-Norman Britain and on France. Chester and Bristol traded with Dublin. The rest of Ireland followed, and the resultant economic dependence meant that the Irish kings showed devotion to Henry I. Dublin was also a recruiting ground for Norse warriors who would help any side in the competition for supreme power.

1140 (870 BMH): 

Turlough O’Connor (Toirdelbach Ua Conchobair), king of Connacht, was the greatest Irish warrior king of this century. From 1140 he devoted his energies to becoming supreme king.


1152 (858 BMH):

Dublin became a metropolitan archbishopric. Previously it had been a diocese subject to Canterbury while the rest of the church was dominated by hereditary lay abbots.

1156 (854 BMH):

Rory O’Connor, son of Turlough O'Connor, succeeded to high king of Ireland.

1161 (849 BMH):

King Dermot’s brother-in-law, Lawrence O'Tool or Lorcán Ó Tuathail,  was appointed archbishop. The Dubliners themselves had killed Dermot’s father and preferred O’Connor to MacMurrough. O’Connor joined forces with Tiernan O’Rourke and MacMurrough was dethroned.

The English had occasionally considered invading Ireland. Canterbury may have raised the subject after losing metropolitan rights over the see of Dublin in 1152. The Pope invested Henry II with the right to rule Ireland, but Henry’s grip on England was still insecure.

1166 (844 BMH):

Rory O’Connor had himself inaugurated king at Dublin. However, Dublin was suited to act as capital to Leinster, ruled by Dermot MacMurrough. MacMurrough approached Henry for help. Henry authorised his subjects to aid him. MacMurrough promised his Cambro-Norman supporters land and his daughter in marriage.

1169 – 71 (841 to 839 BMH): 

The Cambro-Normans re-conquered all Leinster. Henry II withdrew consent when he saw how successful his invasion was, but Strongbow (earl of Pembroke) made himself lord of Leinster.

1170 (May 1st) (840 BMH):  

A small party of Normans, Strongbow's soldiers, landed at Baginbun at the invitation of Dermot MacMurrough. They built a vast rampart that survives today. At the time the Irish fought with slings and stones, while the Normans had knights, archers and other technology.

Strongbow captured Dublin, married MacMurrough’s daughter and ultimately became king of Leinster. Henry II then arrived to subdue Strongbow, which soon meant conquering the Irish as well.

The Norman adventurers who followed Strongbow into Ireland formed alliances with some chieftains in order to attack others, building great castles. They spread all over Ireland apart from western and central Ulster. Their allegiance to Henry was only nominal and they eventually intermarried with the Irish, adopting their ways, laws and language. They English kings tried to stop this assimilation.

1171 (17th Oct) (838 BMH):

Henry II went over to stifle this new Norman kingdom. Strongbow submitted and was allowed to keep Leinster as a fief. Henry reserved Dublin for himself and received submission from various Irish kings. Becket had just been murdered, so Henry couldn’t press his papal grant at once.

1171/2 (839/8 BMH):

A great national synod of the Irish church was convened, intended to bring the Irish church into step with the English. After Henry was reconciled with the new pope, the Irish prelates inundated the pope with letters commending Henry. The Irish kings and bishops hoped for Henry’s protection against Strongbow; they saw it as exchanging the rule of O’Connor for a more prestigious king.

1175 (835 BMH):

By now Strongbow and Hugh de Lacy – a follower of Henry’s – had subdued their vast territories. The Treaty of Windsor was signed between Rory O’Connor and Henry II. Rory was recognised as high-king of Ireland outside Leinster, Meath and Waterford, but these kings had to pay tribute to Henry, and he had to force Irishmen fleeing the conquered areas to return.

1176 (834 BMH): 

Rebellions took place against both O’Connor and the English.

Strongbow died, transferring Leinster to Henry. By then he had a greater financial stake in the conquest.

1177 (833 BMH):

John de Courcy exceeded instructions by conquering Ulaid (Ulster).

Henry gave his rights as Lord of Ireland to his son, John. Cork and Limerick were granted away, although Limerick’s new owners failed to wrest any land from O’Brien.

1183 (827 BMH):  

O’Connor retired to an abbey; Henry petitioned the pope to crown John king of Ireland. However, the Irish were growing disenchanted with Plantagenet lordship. Even Gerald of Wales thought the English were breaking their original agreement.

1185 (825 BMH):

Prince John mocked Irish chieftains who greeted him in Waterford, and after that there were no more submissions.

The Prince was suspicious of men like De Lacy. He handed out smaller grants to a greater number of tenants-in-chief, resulting in important Anglo-Irish dynasties being founded. Some English lords expanded their territory by marrying Irish aristocrats. They also fought amongst themselves.

1186 (824 BMH):

De Lacy was assassinated, and Meath passed to administrators. The English strategy was gradually changing to colonisation. A European population explosion had begun, meaning land in Ireland was tempting. Many private individuals were involved in colonisation. Fortified castles and mottes were built. New towns were founded and tenants imported. These Anglo-Norman towns were laid out in a grid pattern.

1200 (810 BMH):

By now, new citizens were immigrating from England, Wales, France and Flanders. All incomers were regarded as free, but the native Irish tenantry, ‘betaghs’, were serfs. Only one Irish family was assimilated into the colony’s feudal aristocracy; the rest were confined to uncolonised  districts.

The English language began to take root, while Norman French became the upper class literary language. Architecture changed with churches built in Early English Gothic style, using English stone. The east changed from a subsistence to a market economy.

1200s (810 to 711 BMH):

Irish bardic poets viewed themselves as part of the European cultural community, but the French and English didn’t see them as such. Gerald of Wales argued that the marcher lords of Ireland were part of this culture, but the native Irish were not. 

In the eleventh century most clergy still supported marriage, concubinage, hereditary office-holding etc. This lent credibility to colonial legislation against Irish clergy. Franciscan and Dominican friars were responsible for more preaching and pastoral work.

Popular opinion was more strongly against the invasion than that of the chieftains, and prophecies circulated against the Normans.

Bands of mercenaries fought for both the Irish kings and English barons, swapping sides for money. Scottish warriors (gallowglass) began to come over. Within the Gaelic territories, power began to centre on every minor chief who could command a war-band. Elsewhere in Europe, there was a trend towards mercenary armies. In Ireland, they were allowed to take their own wages from husbandsmen, dissipating the agricultural surplus.

1210 (800 BMH):

King John intervened to take back lands from his nobles, and twenty Irish kings did homage to him. He expanded his King’s Council in Ireland, which evolved into parliamentary sessions.

1216 (794 BMH):

King John was succeeded by his young son Henry III.

1217 (793 BMH):

First Treasurer of Ireland promoted. The government in England issued an order that no Irishman should be promoted to high ecclesiastical office.

Henry de Londres, Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Justice of Ireland, convened a synod at which canonical singing was discussed.

1226 (784 BMH):

Until the mid thirteenth century, the provincial Irish kings co-operated with the English and so retained their lands. However, these were not given security of succession; Connacht was declared forfeit in this year, resulting in a nine year war.

1248 (762 BMH):

King’s Bench in Dublin instituted (today contained within the Four Courts).

The liberties were gradually phased out and an elaborate system of government came in. Administrators from the English church were brought in. There was a campaign to ensure that all dioceses under royal control had Anglo-Norman bishops.

1254 (756 BMH):

Edward I was granted lordship of Ireland. He used the country to provision his campaigns in Scotland, France and Wales. Edward II was to continue this policy. Local rule by Irish chieftains was cheaper.

1260 (750 BMH):

Brian O'Neill, who declared himself king of Ireland, was killed in battle by colonists. There was a series of revolts which has been seen as the beginning of a Gaelic recovery, but the colony was still expanding. Soon Irish kings had to co-operate with the barons themselves.

1277 (733 BMH):

First salaried barons of the exchequer. A separate royal seal for Ireland was made under Henry III. King John had also instituted sheriffs, shires, county courts and itinerant justices.

century (740 to 711 BMH):

Those settlers in the east expanded into the west. English peasantry were not introduced to the west; the tenants were almost all Irish, governed by native rulers who answered to the English.

century (710 to 611 BMH):

By the beginning of this century, all native rulers were legally subject to some Anglo-Norman baron or earl, or the English king. The expansion of the colonisers continued.  The Anglo-Norman magnates often fought one another.

1303 (707 BMH):

The Armagh succession passed to a series of Anglo-Irish prelates.

1315 – 18 (695 to 692 BMH):

Edward and Robert Bruce attempted to gain Irish support for the Scottish war, but alienated the colonists. Their three year campaign devastated much land, while the population were also affected by the famine sweeping Europe. There were rebellions. Edward was killed in 1318.

1327 (683 BMH):

The agricultural boom in Europe was levelling off and the barons had become more interested in their more profitable English holdings. By this year, almost half of colonised land belonged to absentees. The resident Anglo-Irish nobility accused them of endangering the colonies through neglect.

1348/49 (662/61 BMH):

The Black Death struck Europe during this time. This and bad harvests led to the migration of colonists of all classes back to England.

1366 (644 BMH):

Statutes of Kilkenny, aimed at preventing settlers becoming too Irish. The ‘English born in Ireland’ were forbidden to adopt Irish clothing and customs.  The Statutes also forbade intermarriage and the use of March/Brehon law. They proved ineffective, leading to the Anglo-Irish becoming known as the ‘degenerate English’. Even the Norman-Irish barons acting as deputies for the English king became independent. Royal government grew feeble and beleaguered.

Edward III and then Richard II attempted to restore the colony’s prosperity. Initially Edward announced that the Irish administrators would be replaced by Englishmen, but this caused such outrage that he decided to reinforce royal control and invest men and money. The colonists were genuinely fearful for their survival. They feared a reoccupation by the Irish, and there was a perception that uncolonised areas were in the hands of the ‘wild Irish’. Native rulers were gradually gaining liberty from the Anglo-Irish aristocracy. There was fighting between Irish chieftains because the magnates had previously followed a policy of ‘divide and rule’. Meanwhile, a cultural revival was taking place. Bardic verse was intended to increase the prestige of patrons, and it came back into fashion despite Irish minstrels being banned in 1366 until the seventeenth century. The scribes and traditional historians also enjoyed enthusiastic patronage, and great manuscripts were written which recalled pre-Norman lineages, borders and culture.

The colonists were unwilling to make large contributions towards reconquest, and absentee landlords preferred to sell their estates to residents of Ireland rather than return. The Irish meanwhile hoped to accumulate sufficient power to challenge the earls by recreating provincial kingships. Various chiefs were styling themselves as the kings of provinces. The Great O’Neill father and son declared themselves Prince and Governor of Ulster despite the earl of Ulster Roger Mortimer. Richard II offered to arbitrate, but made Mortimer governor of Ireland, and war followed.

1394/5 (616/15 BMH):

Richard came over to resolve the newly recognised ‘Irish problem’. This meant that government in Ireland was once again centralised, but England’s attention was caught by the Hundred Year’s War. Ireland had become a financial drain.

1399 (611 BMH):

Second visit by Richard. War broke out as soon as he departed, and his viceroy was murdered.

century (610 to 511 BMH):

The Anglo-Irish magnates were more successful during this period than the Irish or the Crown, whose control shrank to four counties including Dublin. This was enclosed by an earthen rampart known as the Pale. 

The Irish, particularly those of Ulster, began to unite and attack the colonists, and some of the colonists began paying black-rent or protection money to the Irish chieftains. However, the Anglo-Irish lords held sway over the more profitable and populous areas. These lords tried to gain control of royal lands for themselves. After Edward IV made an ill-judged attempt to recover control, the earls of Kildare were left the only surviving Anglo-Irish magnates still eligible for high office; and Kildare imposed its will on the Pale. A period of relative stability and economic growth followed. Many new religious houses went up, almost all founded by Gaelic patrons. Monastic houses in the Pale were decaying while Gaelic Ireland was influenced by a more dynamic European spirituality.

A growing similarity developed between the Irish chieftains and the Anglo-Irish lords. The lords employed Irish historians to justify their status, based on the idea that they were the last in a long line of invaders, and that they had some Irish blood through intermarriage.

1459 (551 BMH):

Richard, Duke of York, was convicted of treason against King Henry VI and lost his title of Lieutenant of Ireland. Even so, the Anglo-Irish parliament confirmed him as leader and declared Ireland independent of English law. There had long been tension between the English of Ireland and of England. It was more the magnates than the commons who were interested in autonomy.

1494 (516 BMH):

The Tudors reinstated English royal dominance. An attempt was made to dismiss the Great Earl of Kildare from his title of Lord Deputy, but he was reinstated after raids by his Irish allies.

1496 (514 BMH):

By this time the line of ‘the Pale’ was at Clongowes. The boundary was continuing to shrink. 

1500 (510 BMH):

The Dublin government was feeble by this time, but 200 years later it would be all-embracing. Its landowners were descendants of the Anglo-Normans, the ‘Old English’. They were firmly attached to English law and its Crown. There was always still a threat of Gaelic assault. The chieftains continued to attack the settlers, convincing the Old English that they were defending civil standards against barbarism. Fear of attack caused the Old English community to militarise, and their primary allegiance was to their lords rather than the king; some lords maintained castles and armies. The two great families were the Fitzgeralds and Butlers, who became rivals; the English kings made the Fitzgeralds their representatives. They were not interested in Ireland.

By this time most of Ireland was ruled by Gaelic or Gaelicised lords, who rejected the English Crown. The church in these areas was very different to the English one.

1515 (495 BMH):

Sixty counties were ‘inhabited by the King’s Irish enemies’. There were 60 Irish chieftains who gave themselves various titles and 30 English doing the same, all warring against one another without input from the King.

There was criticism that the aristocracy were becoming Gaelic and 'degenerating from English civility'. Irish society was fragmenting into lordships, some lords being Anglo-Norman and others Gaelic. They sought to monopolise their power. The grip of the Crown grew weaker.

Through this century, the hiring of soldiers and manufacture of weapons became more costly. The farming population bore the cost. Pastoral (rather than arable) farming dominated. Agricultural practice was more advanced where the Old English population was predominant. Meanwhile, political disruption kept the population down while the number of people in the rest of Europe doubled throughout the century.

Minor overseas trade was conducted by the Old English, but merchants found themselves being forestalled in Old English lords’ territories.

Priesthood had become hereditary in the Gaelic lordships, and priests were clients of the local lord, with bishops often being part of the ruling family. The same trend (appointing aristocrats to important church positions) was followed in anglicised areas.

1534 (476 BMH):

Kildare rebellion took place against Henry VIII. The earls of Kildare, the House of Fitzgerald, who were meant to represent royal authority, rebelled against the Crown. Thomas, Lord Offaly, son of the ninth earl of Kildare, led a symbolic revolt to show that the power of the Kildares must remain. Henry VIII sent an army of 2300 and had all male members of the FitzGerald family executed. This harshness may have been because FitzGerald backed the pope, and because Henry needed to draw up an Irish parliament to confirm him head of the church. Henry ordered that all Irish lands were to be surrendered to the Crown and then regranted. To the Old English this was a reinforcement of their relationship to the King, but for the Gaelic chieftains the change was huge. They once held their land according to Gaelic law and tradition; now it was according to the King’s goodwill. This was the end of Gaelic Ireland.

The submitted lords were expected to exact revenues, assist the extension of English legal administration and have their heirs raised in English households. In enforcing this, the cost of governing Ireland shot up, but the profits from rent and confiscated lands were being filched by the Pale.

1536/7 (474/3 BMH):

After the parliament of these years, monastic property was declared forfeit to the Crown and some of it given to the secular landowners in anglicised Ireland. However, there was no major drive to convert the population of anglicised Ireland because the English governors, officials and clergy were distracted by political crises. With the FitzGeralds gone, the Gaelic lords under their control began to attack the Pale, forcing the government to send in military expeditions. As this was expensive, the surviving FitzGerald heir was reinstated and the discontented Gaelic lords dispossessed until they submitted.

1541 (469 BMH):

English monarchs were styled kings of Ireland.

English intervention in Ireland was reluctant, deriving from a concern to honour their obligation to defend their inheritance and to prevent foreign intruders invading Ireland. The English also took counsel from both Irish and Old English noblemen who gave conflicting advice, leaving the English paralysed.  This lack of intervention meant that the Catholic reformers were able to mould Irish society. The first reformers were the Observant friars. These became opponents of the Crown after the English Reformation began. When the FitzGeralds of Kildare revolted against the Crown, it was depicted as a religious crusade and received extensive support from the Gaelic lords. Meanwhile, many Old English officials and lawyers took their sons out of English universities to stop them being corrupted by Protestantism, sending them to European universities where they learnt Counter-Reformation Catholicism.

1556-1579 (454 to 431 BMH):

Opposing aristocrats, Sussex and Sir Henry Sidney, competed for the position of governor of Ireland. Both devised schemes for Irish government, but their experience was so bad that senior politicians were subsequently reluctant to accept service in Ireland. Sussex supported military settlement in the Gaelic midland area, and continuing with the surrender and regrant policy. Councils would be set up in Anglo-Norman lordships that had 'lapsed' from English civility. He was however side-tracked by the lord of Tyrone, Shane O’Neill, who ignored the surrender and regrant arrangement. Sussex decided to oust him and raised money from the Pale, but the campaign dragged for four years without result until the Palesmen complained to Elizabeth and Sussex was withdrawn.

1562+ (448+ BMH):

Elizabethan wars took place in Ireland. The English believed that the Irish were barbarians. There was a sense of missionary licence to civilise. It was believed that the Irish could only be civilised by force; Elizabeth I sanctioned shedding blood as a last resort. Her deputies were Englishmen and the Crown’s army was composed of English soldiers. Force was used against both the Old English and Gaelic Irish. The Old English themselves rebelled six times against the new order. Gaelic chieftains fought on either side. The ordinary Gaelic Irish population suffered. One deputy, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, displayed the heads of his victims at his camp. Some of Elizabeth’s officials condemned his cruelty and the murder of civilians. However most, including Leicester, believed it the only way to deal with savages. By the end of Elizabeth’s reign, Ireland was for the first time under effective English control; but the foundations of Irish hatred for governing Englishmen had been laid. Meanwhile the Old English and Gaelic Irish moved closer together.

The Reformation of the Church in England failed to take effect in Ireland. This was mainly because communication was extremely difficult in Ireland; it had a scattered population of a million and almost no roads. The Irish Church, meanwhile, used the Irish language and was uninterested in Lutheran ideas. The only place where Protestantism was found was Dublin. Elizabeth was afraid that Irish Catholics might make a religious appeal to Catholic powers like Spain.

Once the Reformation was established in Ireland, all churches were given to the Protestants.

1565 (445 BMH):

Sidney became governor. His policy was to dispossess those who attacked the Crown or occupied its land. English settlers would be brought in to live on these dispossessed areas, introducing English law and civility. Ancient titles were revived and bestowed on English adventurers.

1569 (441 BMH):

James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald launched a rebellion against the English, to be defeated by the combined forces of Thomas Butler (the Earl of Ormonde) and the English under Henry Sidney and Humphrey Gilbert.

1570s/80s (440 to 421 BMH):

Some of the generation of students who had been trained up in the Counter Reformation were now suggesting withdrawing allegiance from the Crown, while others proposed only refusing to attend the state church. This meant that they could no longer fill positions in the Dublin administration, and were replaced by English-born Protestants. Meanwhile lawyers within the Old English community advised acknowledging supremacy of the Crown in temporal but not in spiritual matters. Even so, most English rulers bar Cromwell received delegations from the Old English community. These delegations usually criticised the English Protestant officials. Some of those officials wanted punitive measures against Catholics; the officials argued that they wanted to stir up revolt for their own ends. Consequently, successive monarchs (Tudor and Stuart) put restraints on Irish reform programmes.

The influx of adventurers aroused hostility from the Irish, especially when some adventurers brought in private armies. Sidney welcomed the subsequent insurrections as a pretext to extend his plantation schemes, although Elizabeth did not approve, and forced Sidney to become more moderate. The scheme of private colonization (by adventurers) ended, but the English Protestant officials continued to cause tension by criticising Irish society.

1579 (431 BMH):

James FitzMaurice FitzGerald returned from the Continent preaching a crusade. He received such support from Munster and even the Pale that Elizabeth was forced to put up an army of 8000. Retribution was harsh – such destruction of property and systematic slaughter had never been witnessed before. The Crown attempted to introduce a settlement of 20,000 people on the lands of the earl of Desmond. This resulted in a massive transfer of property from Irish to English ownership.

1585 (425 BMH):

Hugh O’Neill became Earl Of Tyrone.

1588-94 (422 to 416 BMH):

Sir William Fitzwilliam was the governor at this time. He approved some piecemeal settlements. It was planned that the province of the O’Neill family should be broken up, with some going to English settlers and some going to Hugh O’Neill, an experienced client of various English adventurers and claimant to the earldom of Tyrone.

1590s (420 to 411 BMH):

Catholic reformers had succeeded in securing the allegiance of even the most remote Old English outposts.

By the mid 1590s, 4000 people had been settled at Munster. By then, the Protestant officials were attempting to impose penalties on Catholic landowners, but Elizabeth was reluctant to stir up the Irish situation while engaged in war with Spain. Her officials in the Irish provinces meanwhile attempted to possess more property, some hoping to force an insurrection that would push the government into another plantation scheme.

1593 (417 BMH):

Hugh Roe O'Donnell began his rebellion against the English.

1594 – 1603 (416 to 407 BMH):

Nine Years War.

1595 (415 BMH):

Rebellion of Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone. Tyrone had been helped for years by Elizabeth in his disputes with other branches of the Ulster O’Neills. He had spent eight years in England. However, he also felt himself to be descended form the Ui Nialls who had been High Kings of Ireland for centuries. He wanted Elizabeth’s favour, but also independence. Eventually he decided to rebel and joined with his Ulster neighbour, Hugh O’Donnell. Once he had fought for Elizabeth at Munster; now he opposed her at Ulster.

Hugh O’Neill wished to reclaim the entire lordship. A conflict of wills with minor officials ended in a clash with the Lord Deputy. His army was successful at first, and he solicited aid from other lords and promoted himself as a champion of the Counter-Reformation.

1598 (412 BMH):

Victory for O’Neill at Yellow Ford, Ulster.

Elizabeth made reference to ‘vile rebels’ oppressing her subjects.

1601 (Sept). (409 to 408 BMH):

A great Spanish fleet set sail for Ireland to help Tyrone, 4000 men sent by Philip III,  but O’Neill and O’Donnell were miles away in Ulster. The British deputy Mountjoy, leading 2000 men, besieged the Spaniards, but Tyrone and O’Donnell marched south and besieged Mountjoy. This was the final battle for Gaelic Ireland. Tyrone lost against Mountjoy at Kinsale. He managed to obtain pardon after submitting humbly to him. The fact that the most serious threat to date had been narrowly averted pushed on the process of settlement.

1603 (407 BMH):

James I enforced English law, especially in Ulster. James agreed with the repossession of property belonging to the Crown and intolerance towards rebellious landowners. Only loyal landowners with a legitimate claim to their lands could keep them. These were mostly Old English. From then on plantations were set up, particularly in the Ulster region, largely opposed by the Old English. The presence of the settlements strengthened the position of Protestant officials.

1606 (404 BMH):

Scottish Protestants Montgomery and Hamilton founded a private settlement in Ulster, which was to prosper rapidly. For a century it attracted flocks of Scottish settlers. They spread outward and into Belfast, over the whole of Antrim and Down and right across Ulster. The pattern of Protestants and Catholics in Ulster today still reflects the two separate settlements.


1607 (14th Sept) (403 BMH):

Rathmullan: O’Neill and O’Donnell fled – the ‘flight of the earls’. The settlement of Derry began. Since submitting to the Crown in 1603 Tyrone had kept possession of his lands, despite the resentment of those who had fought him. He had been harassed by English officials who had fined him for practising Catholicism and were asserting English law. Some were making claims that he was involved in a plot with Spain. After the Flight, the territory of the earls – Donegal, Tyrone, Derry and Armagh – was subject to a systematic attempt to settle in strangers from England and Scotland.

Officials argued that potential rebels should no longer have control over large numbers of people. English common law was made universal and Jesuits legislated against. The expropriation of land belonging to all Catholic landowners was also recommended.

1608 – 1610 (402 to 400 BMH):

The English Government planned a 'Plantation of Ulster'. Queen Mary had already tried it in the 1550s, it had been attempted in Munster in the 1560s and 1580s and in Ulster in the 1570s. These colonies had either collapsed due to a lack of resources or wiped out by rebellion. The 1610 plantation in Ulster was on a grander scale and was funded by City of London companies. The ‘Irish Society’ composed functionaries of the City of London who were responsible for ‘civilising’ (colonising) Derry. The companies (drapers, salters etc) divided the land. This land was supposed to go to Scottish and English settlers who would not be allowed Irish tenants. The native Irish were pushed out in the less fertile lands, making up only 10% of the new population, and would pay double rent. Only former soldiers were allowed Irish tenants. In practice, more Irish stayed on as labourers or rent-paying tenants.

English and Scottish newcomers were obliged to construct defensible buildings and introduce ten British Protestant families. Land was also allocated to loyal natives. ‘Servitors’, English who had served the Crown, were given most of the land. In fact, most land went to servitors and natives rather than English and Scottish grantees. The servitors had native tenants because this gave them an immediate income, but later they evicted those tenants and took on settlers at low rents. There were also great profits to be had from timber and cattle. The settlers introduced advanced cultivation methods to Ireland. These settlers, especially the English, acquired further Irish property by claiming Crown title or showing weaknesses in the titles of the natives. The most progress was made in Munster. Meanwhile the natives tried to prove loyalty to the Crown by adopting the English language, modifying their houses in the English style and supporting the spread of English law. They also displayed their ‘Englishness’ with their tombs, funerals and carriages. To meet the cost of all this, they took in British tenants at low rents; all such tenants were obliged to improve their properties. They also paid high fines for entry. At least 100,000 people migrated before 1641. The settlers headed for fertile areas, places with access to the sea of near natural resources. The arrival of so many people – including farmers and craftworkers – massively boosted the country’s productivity. However, the Protestant religion failed to spread. James I and Charles I didn’t want to damage relations with foreign governments by too much religious zeal in Ireland. Laws against Catholics were relaxed. The Catholic Church was tacitly tolerated. The clergy focused on missionary work, which annoyed the Protestant officials who were themselves ready to begin missionary work. The Protestants were forced to realise that they would not be able to start a reform yet, and the small size of their churches reflected that.

1622 (388 BMH):

By now there were 13,000 settlers, but they did not totally colonise the forfeited counties. The Protestants felt insecure and the Catholic Gaelic Irish were resentful. The settlers were afraid, not only of the original inhabitants but also of the 5000 former swordsmen of the earls.

The vast majority of Ulster settlers were Scots. They were Presbyterian, not Anglican, which brought them into conflict with English law. This fostered an independence of spirit which has continued to this day.

1628 (382 BMH):

Having succeeded James I in 1625, Charles I introduced 'the Graces', a scheme by which Catholics could obtain religious concessions in return for monetary payment.

1633-41 (377 to 369 BMH):

Thomas Wentworth was governor of Ireland during this time. He caused different religions to unite against him in his efforts to extract money. Wentworth began a wave of confiscation.

1641 (23rd Sept) (369 BMH):

Great Catholic-Gaelic rebellion. The rebels declared their loyalty to the Crown but assaulted the settlers. Terrible atrocities were reported. On Portadown Bridge, 100 Protestants were stripped, thrown into the water and murdered. The rebels were reported to be horribly injuring women and children and leaving them to die slowly. Some people were buried alive. It seems the atrocities were the result of wild indiscipline, not policy. In total there were around 12,000 deaths. The effect on the Northern Protestant subconscious was profound.

The rebellion had been led by Ulster Catholic landowners under Phelim O'Neill who had resorted to arms, possibly in imitation of the Scottish Covenanters who achieved special recognition for Presbyterianism in Scotland. Their inferiors however were overcome with bitterness and they turned on the Protestants, killing 2000 and driving tens of thousands away, stripped of everything. Beginning at Ulster, the revolt spread. The atrocities were exaggerated back on the mainland, and the people there demanded revenge. The English Civil War might have given the Irish Catholics chance to press their advantage, but they were divided. The Old English hoped for mercy by the king and would not concede leadership to Owen Roe, the nephew of Hugh O’Neill. They did not support him in his confrontations with the Scottish Covenanter army at Ulster. The Leinster lords meanwhile were unable to get government forces out of Leinster.

In the period from 1641 until the Cromwellian invasion of 1649, two thirds of Ireland were ruled by the Irish Catholic Confedaration, (the 'Confederation of Kilkenny'), while Protestant areas of Ulster remained variously under the control of royalists, Scottish Covenanters and parliamentarians.

Between now and 1688, the amount of land held by Catholics would drop from 59% to 22%. The Old English and Gaelic Irish were Catholic, but the English parliament was becoming more puritan and anti-Catholic. All Irish Catholics became anxious that their religion would prejudice their rights to land. The interests of the Irish and Old English were increasingly coinciding. Atrocities on both sides were slowly hammering the people into two camps – Catholic and Protestant.

1649 (361 BMH):

Oliver Cromwell had defeated King Charles I in England, but there were still strong Royalist armies allied with Irish Catholic rebels in Ireland. In 1649 Cromwell came to Ireland, striking first at Drogheda. Drogheda is seen in Irish nationalist legend as anti-Irish racism, but the garrison there was commanded by an English Catholic and largely under English officers, Royalists. Inflamed by an initial setback, Cromwell showed little mercy to the soldiers and priests, killing 2000 of them and having more shipped to Barbados. Cromwell may have believed he was taking revenge for 1641, although Drogheda had not been involved – it was within the English Pale.

Government policy was to crush the Catholic people. Cromwell marched south. Some surrendering garrisons were treated well, but Wexford suffered 2000 casualties including 200 women and children in the marketplace. Cromwell dispossessed landowning Irish Catholics and shared their land amongst his soldiers and financiers. The transportation of those landowners to a barren province was known as ‘the curse of Cromwell’. Those left behind, tenants and labourers, still felt humiliated.

(August). Cromwell launched a programme aimed at evangelisation, the removal of rebellious priests and landowners and the crushing of resistance. These ideas had been mooted before, but 1641 showed their urgency. Cromwell brought 20,000 fighters to Ireland, the best army in Europe, and resistance was crushed with much brutality. Such religious zeal was involved that the Catholic church was swept aside. All Catholic estates were confiscated and their owners relocated, if they could prove they had not rebelled. William Petty carried out a detailed land survey of Ireland. Vacated estates were given to Cromwell’s soldiers and financiers, while the former proprietors were left to scramble for land west of the Shannon. Protestant clergymen and schoolmasters were sent over, and there were strenuous efforts to get the Irish into Protestant churches, although language was a barrier. However, many Protestant churchmen already in Ireland were reluctant to work within Cromwell’s framework. Cromwell’s regime did not last long, and more moderate people (including his son Henry) came to the fore.

Protestants who had been in Ireland pre 1641 bought land from the Cromwellian grantees. The settlers pre and post 1649 bonded together with the concern of maintaining a political order.

1660 (350 BMH):

Charles II was restored to the throne but did not want to upset the Protestants who had helped him regain power. His faithful followers were rewarded by having their Irish lands returned; however, the disposed Catholic landowners, including Old English, were to be generally disappointed.

Religious persecution faded. Catholic clergy returned from the Continent. The government didn’t officially tolerate Catholicism but was focusing on re-establishing an Episcopal Protestant church. There were occasional acts of persecution like the execution of Archbishop Oliver Plunkett of Armagh, but the breathing space from 1660 to 1690 helped Catholicism re-establish itself. The Catholics themselves however felt defeated.

1685 (325 BMH):

James II became a Catholic king of England and this created temporary joy. Richard Talbot, a favourite of James II, became Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. He began restoring public office to Catholics and to mobilise a Catholic army. He planned a primarily Catholic parliament at Dublin. Protestants in Britain and Ireland were alarmed.

1687 (323 BMH):

At this time, the Irish population was around 1,300,000.

1688 (322 BMH):

Charles’ Catholic brother James determined to support the Irish Catholics. A Catholic-dominated Irish parliament revoked the Cromwellian land settlement, but the succession of William of Orange, who usurped the crown from James together with his wife Mary, was to trigger a split in Ireland.

James sought support from the Irish; the French came to Ireland to help. Catholics in Ireland responded to the call, frightening the Protestants. Derry and Enniskillen, Protestant towns, denied James’ authority.

Late in the autumn of 1688, rumours began to spread that Irish Catholics loyal to James II were massacring Protestants. News came that a Catholic regiment was to be sent to Londonderry to relieve the old garrison. The people of Londonderry thought it unwise to have Catholic troops protect them. However, establishment figures demanded that the troops be let in, but thirteen apprentice boys locked the door against King James’ troops on 7th December 1688. 

1689 (April) (321 BMH):

The siege began, reaching its full intensity for six weeks in the summer. The Protestant soldier in command of the garrison, Robert Lundy (‘Lundy’ now means a weak Protestant), wanted to surrender, but the citizens opposed him and he was forced to flee. William of Orange’s ships arrived to relieve the city but withdrew.

(May). William’s ships reappeared. James’ men had put a wooden boom across the river Foyle and the relief ships decided not to proceed. 30,000 Protestants were stuck in Derry, starving and plagued by mortar fire. Thousands died of starvation and disease. The besieging army were ill-trained and badly equipped; there was only one attempt to breach the walls. Eventually 10,000 non-combatants were let out. Once, the besieging commander tried to break the siege by rounding up local Protestants and threatening to let them starve to death in the open. The Derry citizens erected gallows and threatened to execute Catholic prisoners, forcing the release of the Protestant prisoners. The inhabitants of Derry responded to a demand to surrender with ‘No Surrender!’ which has been their watchword since.

(28th July). British ships in the Foyle broke the boom and relieved Derry. Their previous hesitation had left the northern Protestants with the awareness that they were on their own.

By 1695, the amount of land held by Catholics was to drop from 22% to 14%.

1690 (320 BMH):

William of Orange landed in Ireland and defeated James II at the Boyne on July 1st.  The Battle of the Boyne is now marked by Protestants on July 12th every year.

(July). William's army moved towards Dublin, pushing James' forces onto the defensive. There was stern resistance to the Williamite army, but it ended in in defeat at Aughrim on 12th July.

All Catholic armies surrendered at Limerick under Patrick Sarsfield. His troops were exiled to serve Louis XIV and were known as ‘Wild Geese’. William III is still a hero to the Northern Irish Protestants, who refer to their enemies as ‘Papists’.

After Catholic surrender there was more confiscation of their property and a rigid anti-Catholic penal code was introduced. The Treaty of Limerick supposedly ensured some tolerance for the Catholics, but this wasn’t carried out. The Protestants were feeling insecure after the recent dramatic Catholicisation of the army and law.

Following William III’s victory, the ‘penal laws’ regulated against Catholics, denying them the right to vote, buy land, be a lawyer, join the army or navy or hold any office of state. A Catholic landlord had to bequeath his inheritance equally to his children unless one turned Protestant, in which case he got the lot. Parish priests could still practise, but friars, bishops and archbishops could not. However, the laws were applied loosely enough to allow bishops etc to exist furtively, and so new priests could be ordained. This laxness was because the vast majority were Catholic; it was easier not to suppress them. Sometimes, as in Galway, the friars would bribe the authorities who had been ordered to crack down on them.

1700 (310 BMH):

By the end of the seventeenth century, all land that could be put to profitable use had been converted into farms. Ireland entered the eighteenth century with a European  structure.  It was relatively populous, with most people living on the land. The principle exports were textiles and meat. Powerful landlords and the church owned most of the land. Huge homes were built.

From the 1690s, the fundamental question over the Irish parliament was whether the Dublin assembly could originate legislation without it being adapted in London. This was sharpened by British attempts to restrict the Irish wool trade. The ‘Patriots’, who were nonetheless Protestants and committed to the British connection, didn’t want their parliament to be subordinate to London. The ‘Protestant Ascendancy’, who had been established by seventeenth century land redistributions, came to dominate. They were insecure, having survived a threat to the property settlement in 1689. Protestants looked back in bitterness to 1641 and 1685-89; the Catholics to the Treaty of Limerick.

The Church of Ireland at this time was undermanned but backed by huge reserves of landed property.

From the 1690s, Irish MPs took an oath denying Catholic beliefs.

Dublin (the Castle) became the political centre and grew in importance. By 1700 Dublin had a population of 50,000. It boasted two ancient cathedrals and various learned societies. There was an affluent leisured class and a wide trading network. The country was being integrated into a single coherent unit with interrelated local economies and a common law. There was also a chain of garrison towns for maintaining a standing army. The principle landed families frequently intermarried.

Dublin had a viceroy – most English rulers never visited it. It had inferior constitutional status to England. Although members of the Irish political nation were not content with this, they were still swayed by English fashion, having their sons educated in England when they could afford it. The wealthiest married into English families, but Ireland as a whole was dogged by comparative poverty and a lack of cultural development. Landowners relied on rent alone instead of diversifying into commerce. Income from rent depended on exports, and these were unreliable. There was a growing dependence on British overseas markets. Ireland was becoming more of a subsistence economy with its growing population. While  continuous economic expansion created prosperity in England, Europe as a whole was blighted by a general recession which led to poverty. All classes suffered.

Ireland's striking difference to the rest of Europe lay in the fact that most landowners and senior officials were of a different race and religion to the general population. Around 1700, most of the social elite were first generation English settlers or descendants of English people who had come over in the last couple of centuries. There were also many landowners of Old English or Gaelic origin. They were all Protestants and all believed in the advantages of the English way of life. However, there was no strategy for converting the Catholic, mainly Gaelic population to Protestantism. The most extreme divisions were to be seen in Connacht, where the land was less fertile. In more fertile lands, landlords took on tenants similar to themselves. The Irish language continued; many natives were becoming bilingual. There was a strong consciousness of being wrongfully dispossessed, although in fact the land had never actually belonged to the peasants but to ruling kinship groups. It was the previously privileged groups like priests and poets who had lost status, and who now fostered a myth of a lost golden age. The sharp loss of continuity with Ireland’s past was what set it apart from other European societies.

1703-4 (307-6 BMH):

The Popery Bills were passed on inheritance rights and leases.

1709 (301 BMH):

More restrictions came into force, such as that Catholics could not bear arms or own a horse worth more than £5.

1714 (296 BMH):

George I ascended to the throne. By this time, only 7% of land in Ireland was held by Catholics, despite the fact that Catholics constituted 75% of the population.

Votes were determined by land ownership. A comparatively small number of landowners could control many seats. The College Green Parliament reflected their needs, except briefly under Queen Anne.

After 1714 family connections became the cement of politics. The ‘undertaker’ system involved Ascendancy families managing parliamentary factions.

1720 (290 BMH):

The Sixth of George I Act declared the constitutional status of Irish legislature to be subordinate. Poynings Law already limited parliament’s rights. Both officials and polemicists resented this.

Irish Toryism differed from English; it was hard-line Protestant and anti-English. Irish Whiggery was seen as too pro-English and soft on Catholics. The ‘Patriot’ tradition was expressed by Charles Lucas, a radical, Jonathan Swift and William Molyneux. Patriots supported the priorities of landed Protestants which included placing constraints on Catholics and implementing cheap government. Protestant insecurity was such that they kept a huge army for their protection against foreign invasion and native insurrection, especially through the agrarian secret societies. They often  resented the English influence.

1729 (281 BMH):

Catholic freeholders formally lost the vote. Anti-Catholic legislation was being pushed more by Irish Protestants than by the English, although some Protestants did aid Catholic gentry to retain their lands. Catholics continued to practise their faith and their rights were gradually returned to them.

1720s-30s (290 to 271 BMH):

Bad harvests saw rural destitution, but afterwards both the population and economy expanded. The east and south became more Anglicised and commercialised. A prosperous farming class developed. Modern historians do not agree on the extent of poverty during this time.

Despite the English tariff on Irish woollens after the boom of the 1690s, the industry diversified and the Ulster linen industry was born. Colonial restrictions caused few problems. Trading networks expanded as transport improved. Many towns prospered; the cattle-market was an important source of prosperity. Textiles and agricultural exports mainly went to England. Linen became a huge domestic industry, dominated by Protestants. Cotton villages began to appear. Where there was no varied local economy, small farmers and cottiers became dependent on pigs and potatoes. Holdings tended to be let out and multiplied rather than farmed in large units. 

(Second half 18th C) (260 to 211 BMH):

In the absence of political rights, a network of agrarian secret societies emerged, known as the ‘Whiteboys’. The Whiteboys were frequently violent, often in reaction to taxes or the spread of the dairy economy. They protected the peasants from rack-renting landlords. They were only interested in local affairs, not national politics. The Irish people lived in extreme poverty but reserved their loyalties for the church and secret societies. Middle-class Catholics, who were still allowed to trade, emphasized their loyalty to the Crown. There was much violence between Protestant small farmers and upwardly mobile Catholics, particularly as incomes began to level off at the end of the century.

The first people to talk of an Irish nation were recent Protestant settlers and converts to Protestantism. They were known as the Protestant Ascendancy and they were highly aspirational. Their culture included the literature of Swift, Sheridan, Burke and others. They wanted to be treated by Britain as an equal nation. Jonathan Swift, Protestant dean of St Patrick’s in Dublin, argued that the English parliament had no right to legislate for Ireland. However, the Irish parliament had little significance. English restrictions on Irish trade stirred up the Irish colonists’ political restlessness, and they were inspired by the example of colonists in America, whose 1770s rebellion was an important event for Ireland. At that time, the Protestant nation formed companies of armed ‘Volunteers’ under the pretext of defending Ireland in the absence of British regiments.

1760 (250 BMH):

George III ascended to the throne and the tempo of Patriotism increased.

1770s (240 to 231 BMH):

Unrest in America focused ‘Patriotic’ Irish politicians on their own position. Whigs at Westminster opportunistically made the same links. There were also strong connections between Ulster and America forged from generations of emigration.

1778 (232 BMH):

From this year there was a powerful campaign to allow Ireland unrestricted access to world trade. ‘Patriotic’ and other discontents joined a military volunteering movement, which the government reluctantly recognised. Pressure from these Volunteers and ‘patriot’ rhetoricians as well as threats of non-cooperation from the Irish House of Commons helped repeal commerce restrictions and then make constitutional concessions in 1782.

The British government relaxed penal laws against Catholics in order to secure the support of the majority and allow Catholics to join the army

1780 (June) (230 BMH):

Lord George Gordon led riots in England against Catholic emancipation.

1782 (228 BMH):

Henry Grattan’s ‘Patriot Party’ won a Declaration of [Legislative] Independence for the Irish Parliament. Britain and Ireland were to be two sovereign independent kingdoms linked by a common Crown. The Sixth of George I was repealed. The new empowered parliament was called ‘Grattan’s Parliament’.  But its authority was still inconclusive, with the Privy Council having power over Irish legislation. Ascendancy figures still wielded much influence. John Fitzgibbon of Clare, for example, blocked concessions to Catholics as he feared sectarian tension. Political reform and emancipation of the Catholics were needed to make Ireland a ‘Nation’, and the Protestant Irish weren’t unanimous on this.

1789 (221 BMH):

The French Revolution took place, overthrowing the ruling powers in France. This conveyed the message that the will of the people was enough to effect change. Belfast Presbyterians formed the Society of United Irishmen, which promoted unifying the Catholic and Protestant nations into one. Wolfe Tone, a Dublin Protestant, was a member. They had limited success.

1790s (220 to 211 BMH):

This decade was prosperous and began in apparently stability. Architecture, artefacts like jewellery and furniture and decorative art bear witness to this. Dublin represented the apex of architectural achievement. Belfast was shaping up to become an industrial boom city, becoming the chief export centre for textiles. There was slight tension between Dublin and Belfast.

1791 (219 BMH):

The United Irishmen had begun as a debating society, French-influenced, middle class and Presbyterian. William Drennan, an ‘aristocratic democrat’, wrote their prospectus. The most famous United Irishman was Kildare Protestant Theobald Wolfe Tone, a pro-Catholic campaigner. It was he who steered the United Irishmen into a ‘French Revolutionary’ movement with links to the Defenders.

1793 (217 BMH):

Catholics gained the vote and civil rights. The liberalisation of land laws only heightened tensions with the secretive ‘Defenders’ becoming more openly political. Politicians split on Catholic emancipation (their right to sit in parliament or hold high office).

1794 (May) (216 BMH):

The government tried to crack down on radical activity but only succeeded in exacerbating the situation.  Farmers and the lower middle/skilled working class joined, although the leadership continued as middle class. Sectarianism was rife lower down in the movement. Protestant morale sank following a succession of Catholic Relief Acts.

1795 (215 BMH):

The Orange Society was founded, taking its name from William of Orange. They were a reorganisation of an agrarian/working class secret society called the ‘Peep O’Day Boys’, who terrorised Catholics. The first Orange lodges appeared; their role was to oppose the Defenders. Defender ideology spread, encouraged by resistance to tax.

Earl Fitzwilliam as viceroy attempted to offer total Catholic emancipation and was repudiated by the government. The British government were however becoming worried.

Maynooth seminary for Catholics opened. It was hoped that this would encourage an Anglicised Catholic church. It meant priests would not be trained abroad or drawn from the peasantry.

Catholic merchants were still important, despite their exclusion from guilds. Dissenters (non-conformists) were also discriminated against, helping to form the Presbyterian political culture of Ulster.

France provided a revolutionary spur, particularly amongst the Presbyterian bourgeoisie in Belfast. Rumours of rebellions abounded even before Britain and France went to war.

1796 (214 BMH):

The United Irishmen had become a secret society who preached violence. Wolfe Tone persuaded the French to send a fleet to Ireland in December to help found an Irish Republic. The fleet was battered by harsh weather. There was a handful of militia waiting to oppose them and a local landlord organised the yeomanry, but it was the weather that drove the ships away. A further fleet was prepared, but by now the government was awake to the threat and cracked down effectively on the secret society. Another factor in ruining the society was the formation of the sectarian Orange Society which attracted Protestants.

1797-8(213-2 BMH):

With the United Irishmen around, the authorities saw the usefulness of the Orangemen in exploiting sectarian prejudice.

1798 (212 BMH):

A Dublin aristocrat, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, tried to organise a national rebellion led by the United Irishmen and incorporating the peasant agrarian secret society network, particularly the Defenders who had their own vague nationalist politics. However, informers betrayed the United Irish Society. Alarmed by the scale of events, the government unleashed repression on the Midland counties, including brutal floggings to elicit information. Other brutal torture methods like pitch-capping were carried out. Thousands of arrests were made and arms were uncovered. The eventual rebellion was confused, and the peasants were slaughtered.

In Wexford, the Protestants – who were sectarian-minded – were given the job of searching for arms and information after the port of Wexford was named as a possible site for French landing. The local population were terrified, and to make things worse the North Cork militia turned up and began flogging people. The Wexford rebellion seems to have been a panicky response to the torture. Father John Murphy became a peasants’ leader in the revolt. This was not really a nationalist rebellion; the North Cork militia prisoners begged for mercy in Irish but the peasants didn’t understand it. The events in Wexford were probably driven more by land hunger, economic crisis and anger at taxes than by nationalism. After a victory at Oulart Hill, the rebels camped on Vinegar Hill. This was more a bundle of refugees from the troops than a military camp. They had no strategy, except revenge; they began by murdering Protestant prisoners. A barn containing Protestant men, women and children was set on fire at Scullabogue, with any survivors being brutally killed – 200 in all. This did the rebel cause no good. A Protestant landlord, Bagenal Harvey, a member of the UIS, took command of the campaign. He was ineffective in curbing the lust for revenge, or defining a strategy. The rebels had gone south, capturing Wexford but forgoing the chance to join with other rebel groups. This gave the government time, and they began to suffer defeats. They were eventually viciously slaughtered on Vinegar Hill. 50,000 people died in the rebellion.

An uprising in Ulster failed. Rumours of southern atrocities were fuelling sectarianism. By the time the French landed in Ireland it was too late. Wolfe Tone was captured and committed suicide. Consequently, Protestants began to think in terms of an Irish ascendancy class whose interests would be protected by the English. Meanwhile, the rebellion proved to Catholics that they needed political leadership.

The reality of 1798 has become distorted into an expression of the ‘separatist idea’, tainted by British treachery.

1799 (211 BMH):

William Pitt accused the Irish of ignorance and bigotry.

By now barely 5% of Irish land was owned by Catholics.

1800 (2nd July) (210 BMH):

The Act of Union passed, abolishing the Irish Parliament. It became law on the 1st January 1801. Initially the Protestants opposed it on Irish patriotic grounds while the Catholics favoured it because the English would protect their interests better than the Protestant Ascendancy would. These opinions were soon reversed. Irish Catholics came to adopt Irish nationalism. Some individual Protestants, who still believed in common Irish patriotism between the two nations, supported them. Despite this, it quickly became a Catholic cause.

The passing of the Act of Union occurred with the usual patronage and bribery. Nationalist mythology tends to put the blame on the British for this, forgetting that it was typical of Ascendancy politics. Although Prime Minister William Pitt had promised Catholic emancipation along with the Union, King George III opposed it on the grounds that his Coronation Oath committed him to uphold the Anglican Church. Pitt subsequently resigned.

With the Act of Union, the Ascendancy declined. Many went to Westminster and began to support the Union in the face of growing Catholic pressure for democratic rights. Only the more liberal country gentry still opposed the Union. Agrarian societies continued, often along sectarian lines (demanding justice for Catholics and the extirpation of Protestants).  After 1800 the Dublin castle system continued. Ireland had 100 seats out of 658 in the Commons. The Union brought free trade with Britain, giving it some support from the Catholic bourgeoisie. However, British industrialisation meant that free trade was not to Ireland’s advantage. Nationalist rhetoric denounced the exploitation of Ireland, calling the Union a failed marriage. Anglophobia became part of opposition to the Union.

By 1800 the population had doubled to 5 million, with most growth amongst the poorer classes. Many farmers re-let tenanted land to make money. Some old Gaelic landowning families continued as prosperous subtenants. These were often the ‘middlemen’ who let and re-let land.

1801 (1st Jan) (209 BMH):

The two kingdoms were united ‘forever’. The Act of Union abolished the Irish parliament, which had met at the grand Parliament House at College Green - still a potent image of Irish achievements. However, its powers were always uncertain.  The Irish administration could not compete with the presence of British barracks and police. Protestant monopolies continued blatantly in law, government and the civil service. 

1803 (July 23rd) (207 BMH):

Robert Emmet’s Rising. His plan had been to seize Dublin Castle to encourage the rest of the country to rebel. His followers murdered the Chief Justice, Lord Kilwarden, and Emmet fled. He is famous for his speech in the dock after his capture, in which he said his epitaph should not be written until Ireland was a free nation. He was executed on September 20th.

During the next years,  Belfast industrialised rapidly. Linen and brewing prospered, while other trades struggled in the free market. Belfast's expansion lead to the influx of a Catholic proletariat, stimulating debate amongst the Ulster Presbyterians – pro-emancipation liberals versus fundamentalists, who were led by Henry Cooke. The Ulster Protestants were egalitarian in some ways but believed in their political and religious rightness. Catholicism meanwhile had its own political dimension because of its informal power, its Gaelic strain, its Roman links and its role in symbolising Irish identity. Catholic churches began to spring up after the Union even while architecture in general was declining.  In the North East, the population was divided into Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Catholic. Orange lodges were founded. There was also Protestant political activity in towns like Cork.

1815 (195 BMH):

Agricultural prices collapsed and with the population expanding, rural tensions grew and violence was common. Landlords complained that the population were uncivilised and habituated to being kept down by force. Agrarian societies were anti-modern and often anti-Protestant, but more localised than nationalist. The Ribbonmen were Catholic with connections to Defenderism, who drew from both rural and working class neighbourhoods.

1817 (193 BMH):

A severe famine took place.

1823 (187 BMH):

The Catholic Association was formed by Daniel O’Connell. It was financed by the ‘Catholic Rent’. The proposed government veto on appointing priests helped create a split with the aristocratic leadership, but it was O’Connell and his elite of Catholic lawyers who mobilised mass politics. They wanted rights, not concessions. There were mass demonstrations and an ‘alternative parliament’ in Dublin.

1826 (184 BMH):

A Protestant Catholic Association candidate beat the local aristocrat’s choice in the Waterford election. The tenants voted in droves against their landlords.

1828 Daniel O’Connell stood at Clare. He was to become known as the Liberator because he liberated the Irish majority from their political obscurity. His achievements were to allow Catholics to sit in Parliament and to campaign against the Union. As part of his first campaign for Catholic Emancipation he built up a mass organisation including Catholic clergy and middle-class supporters. People could join his Catholic Association for a penny a month, and it soon attracted large sums. O’Connell had a horror of popular violence, but he stressed the physical power that lay in the mass support behind him. 

O’Connell won at Clare but was not allowed to take his seat until he scored a second victory. The government were worried by the menacing discipline of his followers, who marched in columns. For the first time, Irish popular opinion was a force in British politics.

1829 (181 BMH):

Catholic Emancipation passed. Catholics were allowed to sit in parliament and hold most high offices, but the franchise was raised to £10, losing them many voters.

1831 – 1836 (179 to 174 BMH):

Violent resistance to the collection of church tithes.

1830s (180 to 171 BMH):

The Orange Society was banned over a political plot to put the Duke of Cumberland on the throne. Respectable Irish opinion towards the Orangemen was ambivalent.

The Young Ireland movement of this decade was led by Protestant nationalists who were often anti-English. The Young Irelanders published an extreme Repealer newspaper, The Nation, which used Irish history to argue that Ireland could become ‘a nation once again’. A cult of ‘dying for Ireland’ emerged, with an emphasis on rebellion. The Protestant establishment as well as the British government were threatened.

O’Connell spent this decade at Westminster allying with Whigs and Radicals, during which time he got tithes to the Church of Ireland abolished and improvements in Irish government, education and health care. Elective councils were introduced in urban areas, and a Poor Law Act was passed. The Ascendancy felt itself under attack.

The British state attempted some modernising initiatives. O’Connell backed some and opposed others, such as secular primary education. He supported policies to whittle down the powers of local gentry.


© Copyright 2020 JonathanSluty. All rights reserved.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Reddit
  • Pinterest
  • Invite

Add Your Comments:

More Non-Fiction Miscellaneous