England and Ireland

Figure 1.--Here Ulster Unionists march to demonstrate their continued alleigance to Britain and opposition to union with the Irish Republic to the south. Notice the orange banners which depict a sene from the Battle of the Boyne in which William of Orange defeated the Catholic forces under James II. The Protestants who fought with William became known as Orangemen. Unionists commemorate the Boyne every July 12 with marches like the one here in Shankill Road, a Unionist stringhold in Belfast. Source: Popperfoto

Irish history is often depicted as a morality play with the good-hearted English and evil English. The Troubles in Ulster were rooted in the centuries old effort of England to control Ireland. The conflict assumed religious overtones after the Protestan Revolution in England with the Irish peasantry stradfastly clining to the Catholic Church. Supression of the Irish and Catholic Church varied in entensity over time. Cromwell ruthlessly supressed Irish attempts at independence. James II did not have the caution of his father. He attempt to restablish the Catholic Church in England. Without a Catholic heir, however, most English were willing to await the natural course of events. The birth of a Catholic heir radically upset the situation. English piers invite William of Orange, a Protestant prince from the Netherlands married to James' protestant daughter Mary. The result was the Glorious Revolution. William quickly deposes James who is forced to flee. James made his last stand in Ireland with Catholic loyalists. This was the last real Irish resistance to English rule occurred with the defeat of James II at the Battle of the Boyne (1692). The Protestants who fought under William against James became known as Orangemen. The Boyne was the last major Irish effort at independence until the Easter Rebellion (1916). The English through a series of anti-Catholic law disenfrangized the Irish and sized the land, making the Irish poverty-striken land-less tenants in their own country. Most Irish subsisted on small plots where they grew potatos. The English were firmly in control of England in the 19th century. The horrendous English response to the Potato Famine (1845-50), however, probably meant that Ireland could not continue to be part of Britain. Largely constitutional efforts aimed at gaining Home Rule were persued in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The Romans

England's written history began with the Roman invasion of Celtic Britain. The Roman conquest of Brition ws characterically brutal. Julius Ceasar landed in Britain, but did not persue an actual conuest (1st century BC). Roman armies during the reign of Emperor Claudius did conquer Celtic Britain with the exception of the north (modern Scotland). Britain became a prosperous corner of the Roman Empire and as Christianity spread within the Empire, so did it reach Britain. The Romans after conquering Briton, never attempted to conquer Ireland. As a result, Celtic Ireland was not Chritianized during the Roman era. There were contacts. There was trade between Roman Briton and Celtic Ireland and the Irish conucted raids into prosperous Roman Britain. More importantly, the Christianity that the Romans brought to England did conquer Ireland, several centuries before English armies appeared in Ireland..

Christian Ireland (400-800 AD)

Ireland was Christianized by St. Parrick and other Christian missionaries. Gradually Ireland became an important Christian center. Located on the perifery of Europe, it never felt theforce of the barbarian invasions that swept over the rest of Western Europe. Thus while Christianity was asaulted by the Germanic barbarians, the Celtic kings and nobles in Ireland promoted a vibrant Christian culture. Irish monks, pilgrims, explorers. illuninists, and scholars became renowned throughout Western Christendom. Irish monks helped preserve great literary treasures.

Vikings (800-1169)

Viking raids begn in the 9th century at the same time the raids began in Britain. The Vikings devestated Christian Ireland. The first scattered raids were followed by sustained raids that struck throughout the island. Great monastaries with their accumulated wealth and lack of defenses were priority targets for the Vikings. Great monastaries like Bangor were abandoned. The Normans also mase their contribution to Ireland. The first real towns in Ireland were founded by the Vikongs (Dublin, Waterford and Limerick). Efforts occurred to unite Ireland politically, but did not suceed.

The Normans (1170-1315)

Irish history is often depicted as a morality play with the good-hearted Irish and evil English. Lost is the haze of history are the Irish raiders who plundred the English coast both during and after the Roman era. The modern era began with the Normans. Most of Ireland's history in the 2nd millenium is connected with the English. The relationship is rooted in the centuries old effort of England to control Ireland. This began with the Normans. Had it not been for the the quick demise of Harold at Hastings (1066), the Saxons might have put up a much more prlonged resistance to William and the Normans. The Irish were unable to resist Norman power. The Normans demonstrated a far superior organization and fighting capability than the Irish and suceeeeded in gaining major victories. The Normans emerged victorious in all the major encounters with the poorly armed and poorly organized Irish lords. The Normans were, however, only a small group and a fraction of the Irish population. In less thn a century, the Norman colony so firmly implanted in Ireland had begun to decline (mid 13th century). As a result, although conquered like England, the Normans had less of an impact in Ireland than they had in England. There were just not enough interested Normans to securely occupy the land that they had conquered. Two other important developments led to the demise of Norman Ireland. The Plantagenants especially after John, lost interest in Ireland (1216). And thus there were no further military expeditions to defend the Norman lords. Second, as time progressed the Norman lords became increasingly 'Irishised'. They married Irish women and began using the Irish language and adopt Irish traditions. Third Normans who had come to Ireland to seek their fortune, yired of Ireland and the slim pickings there. And as Norman power wained, the Irish lords began to understand that the ballance of power was shifting. They began attacking the Norman lords and even hired Scottish mercenaries (the 'Gallowglasses'). Important Irish victories followed, first at Kerry (1261), Connaught by the O'Connors (1270), and Wicklow (1274). Thus by the begginning of the 14th century, substantial areas of Ireland were once being ruled by the Irish lords. The Plantagenent simply did see Ireland as strategically important. Their eyes were set south on France. Ireland was of some interest in trade, but the Plantagenants were not prepared to squader money and troops on protecting the Normans in Ireland.

Scotland: Robert the Bruce (1296-1314)

Scotland at the time of the Norman conquest was an independent northern kingdom. At it core were the Picts who hd resisted bith the Romans and Anglo-Sons. The Picts with a not fully understood Irish fusion created medieval Scotland. The Norman kings showed an early interest in Ireland. It was the Plntagenants that set theie eyes on Scotland. King Edward I decided to enlarge his kingsom in th north by invading Scotland, a much smaller and weaker kingdom (1296). English success seemed a foregone conclusion. He easily seized the border Lowlands and Edinburgh. To demonstrare his contol, he carted off the Stone of Scone (a prestigious Scottish royal tressure). It would not be returned for 700 years. Edward and the Norman lords ruled Scotland for 10 years. Then out of nowhere, a Scot named Robert Bruce organized a plot to regain Scottish independence. He got the support of some Scottish lords and somewhow managd to defeat a large English force at Bannockburn (1314). Robert became the king of a revived, independent Scottish kingdom.

Decline of the Normans: The Pale (14th-15th centuries)

The Irish Lords had begun reclaiming Ireland before Robert's victory at Bannockburn in Scotland (1314). These developments encourged more Irish lords to begin thinking about ousting the Normans. Two of the most important were the Irish Lords in Ulster, O'Neill and O'Donnell. Robert in Scotland had not defeatd the weak Noit=rman lords in Ireland, but a large, well-equipped English army. They thought that King Robert might be a strong ally to defeat the remaining Norman Lords in Ireland. King Robert was well aware that the English traded with Ireland and got important supplies from the Norman lords there. An arrangement was reached under which Robert's brother, Edward Bruce, was recognized as High King of Ireland. Edward landed at Larne in Ulster (1315). This was only a year after Bannockburn. Edward Bruce briught with him a substantial army. The Irish-Scottish army defeated the Normans of Meath and then turned south. Edward did not prove popular with the Irish. Some saw him a disrespectful, but he semed to offer the prospect of indepenence. Edward was crowned King of Ireland (May 1316). King Robert subsequently joined Edward. The Bruces and their Irish allies moved against the Normans of Limerick, Tipperary and Kilkenny, seizing their estates and plundered their property. Robert then returned to Scotland. The Normans finally defeated Edward and killed him (October 1318). This ended Scottish support for Irish independence, but the Norman Lords had been sevrely weakened. The Irish lord were incrasingly optimistic about finally driving out the Normans. The Black Death struck Ireland (1348), furher weakening the Normans. King Edward III was the first Plantagent king to take an interest in Ireland. H relized that the last Norman areas of Ireland were in dngr of falling. He dispacted his son Prince Lionel to reverse England's declining foothold in Ireland (1360). Lionel arrived in Dublin (1361). He landed with awell-supplied English army and recruited Irish Norman lord. They launched a series of offensives into Irish-controlled Leinster and Munster. Lionel had little success to report to his father. Instead he staged the Parliament of Kilkenny (1366). Prince Lionel used the occassion to institute legislation for the areas of Ireland still under Norman control. He had come to believe that Norman control had been undermined by the Irelanization of he Norman lords. He set out to sharply divide Irish and Norman culture. The new Kilkenny Laws banned Normans from marrying Irish, speaking Irish, using Irish law or dress, and even listening to Irish music or stories. The Norman lords or Anglo Irish as they are often known largely disregarded these laws. Many of these families had been in Ireland for two centuries. They had little or no loyalty toward England. They increasingly saw themselves as Irish, although they wanted to hold on to their lands. Prince Lionel died having failed in his mission (1367). Richard II was crowned (1377). Richard landed at Waterford with a massive army of 10,000 men along with a new, powerful military weapon -- artillery. Richard was detemined to end Irish resistance once and for all. Faced with such an overpoweing army, the Irish eclined to resit. Important Irish Lords submitted to King Richard and the English. Richard was magnanamous. He allowed Irish lords who pledged loyalty to keep their land. The Irish Lords at Leinster refused and were evicted from their estates. Richard prepared to install English nobels in their place. Leinster was, however, still unoccupied when King Richard departed with much of his army (1399). Irish Lords of Leinster returned to their land in Leinster. Te Irish also murdered Richard's viceroy. That was, however, the least of Ricard's problems. While campaigning in Ireland, discontent grew in England. King Richard himself was murdered by his cousin Henry who seized the English throne as Henry IV. Henry was not interested in Ireland and focused on England. Like most Plantagebts, theur ficus was on France. Henry V was famous fir his campaigns as part of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). The Norman decline in Ireland continued as the English fought the Hundred Years War. The English control in Ireland was reduced to a narriw 20-mile coastal strip around Dublin. It became known as the Pale. The English in Dublin diggedly defended the Pale. The Irish were unable to seize the Pale and complete the expullsion of the Normans. The Normans built what might be called a fence to keep the Irish out. (This has come down in the English labguage as 'beyond the pale'.) The Pale was defended by three Normam Lords whose lands were within the Pale. They maintined their lands not by receiving ngkush assistance, but by negotiating alliances with neighbouring Irish lords. Outside the Pale, especially Munster, former Norman Lords wer barely destinguishable from the Irish. They were essentially Irish themelves and had no love for the English.

Protestant Reformation

The conflict between the Irish and English assumed religious overtones with the advent of the Protestant Reformation. The Irish Reformation is closely assiciated with the English Reformtion., albeit with a different outcome. The Reformation began in Germany with Marin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis on the Chuch door. Here King Henry VIII proved to be the key player. Henry was a devout Catholic and as the Reformation swept Europe, Henry was a strong ally of the Papacy and Catholic Church. Unlike scotland, there were no Irish figures that spread the Reformation. It would be King Henry that would introduce the Reformation. The inability of Queen Cathrine (Catherine of Aragon) to bear an heir and the beautiful Anne Boleyn. The King's advised by Cardinal Woolsey sought an anulment of his marriage so he could marry Anne. This became known as the King's Great Matter. Woolsey miscalulated badly. Pope Clement VII refused the petition (1533). Queen Catherine was Emperor Charles V's aunt and Charles contolled the fate of the Papacy and Church. Denied the Pope's anulment, Henry took the step of assert his lordship over the Catholic Church in his realm. This gave him the authority to annul his marriage. He had the English Parliment pass the Acts of Supremacy (1534). And because he had begun the reconquest of Ireland, Henry was able to influence religious matters in Ireland. The Irish Parliament agreed to the change in status of the country from that of a Lordship to that of Kingdom of Ireland. Until this point. the engloish Church ws still Catholic and Henry was no champion of Protestantism. Even so, Anne Boleyn, Cromwell (who replaced Wooslsy), as well asHenry's son Edward were all Protestants. Henry by attacking the papacy and the papal establishment in England, opened the door to the Protestants without meaning to do so. And the Reformation was introduced into Ireland by the English administration beginning with Henry's reign. The Irish peasantry, however, remained steadfastly Cathlic, seeing the Reformation as one more English imposition. Public opinion in England gradually accommodated itself to the break with Rome and than gradually Protestant theology. This was in part a nationalist matter as it was in Germany. In Ireland, however, the English government's policy did not resonate with the people. Support for the Catholic Church was in large measure oposition to English control. Henry ordered the Irish Church to also recognise him as head of the Church (1536). Henry's control of Ireland was more tenous than was the case in England. The Irish simply efused to recognise King Henry as leader of their church and continued to see the Pope as the head of the Church. Some Irish Bishops 'reformed,' but soon returned to the Catholic Church. King Henry as he expanded English control in Ireland moved against the Irish monasteries as he did in England. These were ancient institutions. Some had existed for more than a millenium and had played a central role in Irish Christianity. Breaking up the monastaries and selling the land, often to English absentee landlords, further alianated the Irish peasant population. The monks had played important roles in rural Ireland, caring for the sick and poor. It was during thecreign if Edward VI, Henrty's son, that the English Church began to become a truly Protestant Church and not just a Catholic Church separated from Rome. The confession, processions, and the doctrine of transubstantiation were ended. The Irish did not accept these doctrinal changes. Not only were they in definace of the papacy, but the English church had begun usung the English language which many Irish rejected. As a result, Ireland remained staunchly Roman Catholic as England became increasingly Protestant. Queen Mary, a Roman Catholic, came to the throne (1553). She was determined to return her realm to Catholic faith. Mary did not, however, produce ab heir. And when Elizabeth became Queen, she effectively ended the Reformation in England. Protestant Anne Boelyn was Elizabeth's mother. And Elizabeth was raised a Protstant. Queen Mary almost had her half sister executed. Queen Elizabeth oversaw a religious settlemnt that accepted many of the Protestant reforms, but the Irish Church remaind steadfastly Catholic.

Tudor Reconquest (1530s-1603)

The English reconquest of Ireland began under King Henry VIII and continued by other Tudor monarchs, especially Elizabeth. At the onset of the reconquest, English control was limited to the Pale--a small area around Dublin. Silken Thomas, the Earl of Kildare, led a rebellion against King Henry (1530s). It failed, but Henry decided to punish the Irish. Henry had himself declared King of Ireland by the Parliament of Ireland. King Henrywas determined to restore English control which had gradually been lost after the Norman conquest. Henry's peoject was continued by his successoe=rs, including Catholic Queen Mary. Henry and his successors used both conciliation and repression. Tge English conquest was not just a military campaign. The Tudors unlike the Normans vegan to impose English law, language and culture. And there was an effort to impose the English Church (Anglicanism) as the state religion. The Irish found themselves caught between their widespread support for the Catholic Church and Papacy the demands of the Tudor monarchy g=for loyalty. Religion oroved to be the only area in which the Irish succesfully reisted. The Irish received some foreign support. The Spanish Empire intervened during the Anglo-Spanish War which culminated with the Spanish Armada. Queen Mary atempted to make England Catholic again. And her edicts repealing anti-Catholic laws were well received in Ireland. But Mary did not treat her co-religionists any more kindly than her preecesors. She ordered an English army into the Pale and seized counties Laois and Offaly, just west west of Dublin (1556). This was not just aand, grab, but an act of ethnic cleanings. She ordered the removal of the Irish population. The land was turned ivr to Catholic English settlers. The dispossed Irish fought back for some 50 years. Queen Elizabeth I came to the English throne (1558). Herreligious settlement finalized the character of the Church if England with many Protestant reforms. It was during Elizabeth's reign that the process of founding Englih colonies in North america begn, but with little success. Ireland seemed a more accessable territory to colonize. It was closer and had manyb similiar characteristics to England. The Irish Catholic aristocracy was unwilling to accept the sovereignty of Queen Elizabeth beyond the Pale. The O'Neills of Tyrone attacked, but were efeated (1561). Revolts by the FitzGeralds of Cork and Kerry were supressed (1575 and 1580). Queen Elizabeth took advantage of the defeat of the FitzGeralds in Cork and began what was called a plantation in Munster. Protestants settled in what had been FitzGerald land. The plantation proved successful, towns developed and the colony prospered (1587). The Irish struck back, destroying the colony (1598). Elizabeth died a few years later. By this time, however, the Tudor conquest was almost complete. All of Ireland came under control of James I (1603). The country was governed by a privy council at Dublin. The Tudors largely destroyed Gaelic Ireland as a political structure. The Spanish ceased to intervene directly. This control was increased after the Flight of the Earls (1607). The Tudor conquest made possible the extensive confiscation of Catholic-owned land by English, Scots, and Welsh colonists. King James I would pursue the plantation policy more vigorously in the north, using Scotts and English Protestants that would becone known as the Scotts-Irish. This lead to the Plantation of Ulster and a Protestant north.

The Scotts Irish

The flight of the Earls (O'Neill, O'Donnell and the other Ulster lords) ended the last real chance of a united Ireland independent of English control (1603-07). Little is known about what their plans were. Some speculaste they hoped to return with foreign aid. James I and his Government saw the deprture of the Earls as an opportunity. Chichester was a strong proponent for a plantation. The Crown confiscated the lands of the departed lords (December 1607). Further conflict resulted in the confiscation of even more land and a substantial expansion of the planned plantation. The Government issued pamphlets to promote British Protestants to launch a great colonising enterprise to create a new Protestant Ireland (Summer 1610). Colonists wee drawn from a large range of British society, both English and Scottish. Chichester and Scottish nobels like the Earl of Abercorn played important roles. The migrants included aristocrats, artisans, evicted Lowland farmers, even fugitives from justice. The English were better financed, byt the Scotts were the most determined colonists or planters as they were called. For tis reason the planters came to be called the Scotts-Irish. They were in fact not all Scotts, but they were defnitely Protestants who came to Ireland with a religious mission in mind as well as personal benefit. Gradually differences with the Croiwn and English landlords escalated and the Great Migration began. Large vnumbers emigrated to America where they would play a major role in the Revolutionary War.

Rebellion of 1641

Just before the outbrek of the English Civul War and the disasters to follow, the disposed Irish Catholics rose up against the English Protestabt settlers who we now call the Scotts Irish (October 1641). They blamed the new settlers for their desoerate plight. The rebellion has been portrayed by Protestants as a vicious Catholic slaughter. The Catholics have seen it as a justified response to repression. The truth of couse lies somewhere in between. [Gibney]

English Civil War (1642-51)

The Tudors did a great deal to strengthen the authority of the monarchy, but were deft politicans and managed Parliament carefully. The Stuarts had a different mindset. They were commited to not only divine-right monarchy, but royal absolutism as well. Rather than attempting to mamage Patliament, the Stuarts were affronted by Parliament's perogatives. The conflict between the Stuart monarchy and Parliament culminated in the English Civil War. Cromwell ruthlessly supressed Irish attempts at independence. Oliver Cromwell arrived with his army and Protestantism (1649).

James II

James II did not have the caution of his father. He attempt to restablish the Catholic Church in England. Without a Catholic heir, however, most English were willing to await the natural course of events. The birth of a Catholic heir radically upset the situation.

Glorious Revolution (1688)

James's downfall came about as a result of the birth of his son. It may have ocurred anyway, but the heir's birth was the cause of his actual downfall--referred to in England as the Glorious Revolution. . The prospect of a Catholic male heir, rather than a Protestant daughter, following Catholic James was too much for now thoroughly Protestant England. Various powerful figures within and without the government, faced with the prospect of a tyrannical Catholic dynasty, treasonously invited the staunchly Protestant William of Orange to assume the throne. William was the son of Princess Mary Henrietta, eldest daughter of Charles I. He was mairred to Mary Stewart, the eldest protestant daughter of James II and his first wife Anne Hyde. King James, finding himself bereft of political and military support, fled, though he stopped to throw the Great Seal of England into the Thames. He was captured by some fishermen, however, before he could cross the Channel, and was brought back, ignominiously, to London. William, having no wish to make him a martyr or a center for Catholic resistance, contrived to let him escape again. It was announced that he had abdicated, and the throne was officially declared vacant, though it was of course immediately occupied by William and Mary. A convention Parliament in 1689 officially offered them the crown.

Williamite War (1689-91)

The Williamite or Jacobite War began when James II supported by King Louis XIV of France attempted to regain his throne (1689). It is also called the War of the Two Kings because it pitted deposed Catholic James II against the new king, Protestaht William I (William of Orange). James had been deposed by William and Parliament in the Glorious Revolution (1688). William had married to James' daughter Mary which provided a thin venner of dyastic cover. James decided to use predomunantly Catholic Ireland to launch his campaign to regain the crown. Even aftr the Glorious Revolution in England, the Jacobites held most of Ireland. Richard Talbot, the Earl of Tyrconnell, was James's viceroy in Ireland. He wabnted to ensure that all the strong points in Ireland were firmly in the hands of loyal Catholic garrisons. And by By November 1688, only the walled city of Derry (later renamed Londonderry) had a Protestant garrison loyal to William and Mary. Talbot ordered the Earl of Antrim to take the city and garison it with a loyal Catholic force. He did not immediately move on the town. James found support among the mostly Catholic Irish who forned the bulk of the Jaobites Army. James had signed a scret treaty with Louis even before he was deposed. Louis supported James with monet, arms, and men. Tghe Williamite War thus became part War became part of a wider European conflict known as the Nine Years War. A few Protestants of the established Church in Ireland also fought with the Jacobites. In England, James downfall was sealed when he lost the support of the Churchof England because of his none to secret Catholic sympathies. Willians support cane from the mostly Protestant popultion of northern Ireland. A Jacobite army attempted to take the the Williamite stronghold of Derry (1689). The Royaln Govenor declared the city indefensible, but was expelled. Appretice boys managed to stop the first Jacobite firce to reach the town, by raising arawbridge and clising the town gates. The people of Derry decided to fight even when King James appeared at the city gates and demanded surrender (April 18). The city was finally releaved by the Royal Navy (July 28). William organized a multi-national force to invade Ireland, including English, Scottish, Dutch, Danish and other troops. The Protestants who fought under William against James became known as Orangemen. In addition to the dynastic and religious struggle, The Williamite War was the last real Irish resistance to English rule until the 20th century. The Jacobites fought a series of battles. The most important was the Battle of the Boyne (1690). James left Ireland after the Battle of the Boyne. The remaining Irish Jacobites were finally defeated after the Battle of Aughrim (1691). This ended Irish Jacobitism. The Boyne was the last major Irish effort at independence until the Easter Rebellion in 1916. TheWar was formally ended on honorableterms with the Peace of Limrick (1691), althoufg the Irish Parliament subsequentlyvrefused to honor all ofthe terms of the Treaty. The Boyne confirmed English Protestant control of Ireland, but did not affect the Cattholcism of the Irish peasantry. Subsequent Jacobite Risings were confined to Scotland and England. The War had a lasting effect on Ireland, confirming British and Protestant rule over the country for over two centuries. The iconic Williamite victories of the Siege of Derry and the Battle of the Boyne are still celebrated by the Unionist community in Northern Ireland today.

Anti-Catholic Laws

The English through a series of anti-Catholic law disenfranchized the Irish and sized the land, making the Irish poverty-striken land-less tenants in their own country. Most Irish subsisted on small plots where they grew potatos, a newly introduced crop. The Irish people were dispossed of their land, but remained staunched Catholic. The English were firmly in control of England in the 19th century.


While most of Ireland remained Catholic, the Protestant Plantations changed the religious situation in northern Ireland.

The Potato Famine (1840s)

The Irish Potato Famine began with a blight of the potato crop. The Irish had come to depend on the potato as a mainstay of their diet. No other crop produced so much food per acre of land. The blight was devestating and spread with amazing speed. Within a year a bountiful crop was reduced to rotting fields. Vast expanses of Irish firelds were ruined by black rot. It would have not been as bad if the Irish diet had been more diverse, but the poor Irish peasantry survived on the potato harvest. Potato crops accross Europe failed, but nowhere in Europe was the poopulation so dependant on the potato. Not only was the potato gone, but the crop failure caused the price of other food crops to soar, placing substitute foods beyond the purchasing power of the destitute Irish peasantry. The Irish peasantry were tennantv farmers who eked out a subsistaence existance with the potato not only found their food stocks roting, but were unable tom pay their rents. Soon their British and Irish Protestant landlords were evicting them from their homes. Some of the Irish peasants out of desperation attempted to eat the rotting potatos. Whole villages were devestated by cholera and typhus. Parish priests desperately tried to tend to their congregtions and feed the starving. Inn some cases the dead went unburried. Many were burried without caskets. English relief efforts wre inadequated and even these wereec abandoned in the midst of the famine. Work houses because of inadequate nutrition and unsanitary conditions were death traps. The Irish famine has been seen by many as the greatest humanitarian disasaster of the 19th centuy. This was in part because so many died and others forced emmigrate. Over 1 million are believed to have actually sucumbed to statvation and disease. But most tragic of all was that it was preventable. Throuhout the Famine, Irish, and English landowners were exporting food. One author points out that a quarter of the peers in the House of Lords owned land in Ireland and failed to act. [Wilson] As the 19th century moved on, independence became a possibility, but not an inevitability. The central development in the 19th century was the Irish Potalo Famine (1845-50). The reforms of the 19th century could have succeeded in integrating Ireland within the rest of the United Kingdom. This did not occur and the central reason was the Famine. The potato famine and more importantly the British reaction to the Famine resulted in a Holocaust of horendous proportions. After the Famine, Irish independence was inevitable. The horrendous English response to the Potato Famine (1845-50), however, probably meant that Ireland could not continue to be part of Britain.

Home Rule Movement (18th-20th Centuries)

An Irish Parliament (Grattan's Parliament) sat briefly in Dublin (1782-1800). It was controlled by the Anglo-Irish Protestant Accendancy. The Society of United Irishmen was founded in Belfast (1791). They would be the organizung force behind the a serious Rebellion (1798). The Irish Uprising of 1798 was the result of the longstanding resentment over several centuries of the oppression of still Catholic Ireland by the British government and their Protestant Irish allies. The American Revolution had only a limited impact on Ireland. At the time few Catholic Irish, in contrast to the Ptotestn Scotts, had emigrated to lrgely Protestant America. The eruption of the French Revolution in 1789, however, inspired the the Irish. One result was the formation of the Society of United Irishmen (1791). This was at first, a liberal political organisation seeking Parliamentary reform and a cultural and nationalistic union of the Irish people. When after the execution of King Louis XVI, Britain declred war on Revolutionary France (1793). The Irish and British government decided to suppress the United Irishmen fearing a domestic civil war as transpired with the American Revolution. The United Irishmen were transformed into a militant underground movement and began to organize military operations with the goal of a republican democracy. Their 1798 Uprising failed. The British executed 34 of its key leaders and supporters, giving some idea of what would have occurred in America has Washington's Continentals failed. The English then promulgated the Act of Union of 1800. This brought Ireland completely under English control. It was also paradoxily the beginning of Ireland's independence movement. Daniel O'Connell led the independence movement in Parliament to end penal laws and legal discrimination against Catholics. Largely constitutional efforts aimed at gaining Home Rule were persued in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Protestant stalwart, the Duke of Wellington as primeminister managed to achieve Catholic emancipation, but not home rule (1820s). The landless peasantry in Ireland managed tp eke out a precarious existence, depending primarily on potatos grown in small plots. The Potato Famine destroyed the lives of millions. (1840s). The Irish population to this day has not recovered. The Irish emigrated in the hundreds of thousands, establishing lives in America and other countries. The English response effectively ended their right to rule in Ireland. Rebellion swept Europe (1848). The Fenian Movement was one of the aspects of the 1848 Revolutions. The Fenians were not social reformers, but revolutinaries. Young Ireland launched an poorly organized uprising which the Britsh quickly quelled. William Gladstone became prime minister (1868). He sought to solve the Irish Question through Home Rule. Solving the Irish Question, however, was complicated by the Protestant majority in the north (Ulster) which objected to home rule in a majority Catholic Ireland. Arthur Griffith founded Sinn Fein (Ourselves Alone) (1905). Prime Minister Henry Asquith was still working on Irish Home Rule when World War I erupted. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) launched the Easter Rising in Dublin during World War I. English execution of the rebels generated considerable sympathy throughout Ireland.

World War I (1914-18)

Ireland at the time of World War I was part of the United Kingdom. At the time that the crisis developed in the Balkans, the Goverment was considering the Irish question. Parlialment was considering the Third Home Rule Bill. The Government decided to postpone consideration until after the War. Most believe that the war would be a short one. Ireland at the time was divided between Nationalists and Unionists. When Britain declared war (August 1914), both Nationalists and Unionists that the best course was to lyally support Britain. The common logic was that by fighting with Britain, they would be best situated to gain support for their position after the War. The Irish were recruited and eventually drafted for military service just like the English as British subjects. Thousands of Irishmen enlisted and many were mobilized in the British Army's 10th and 16th divisions. Members of the Nationalist Irish Volunteer Force (IVF) joined the war alongside the British. There were dissenters. A relatively small splinter group objected to any cooperation woth the British. Tho stress their loyalty, the majority of the IVF renamed themselves the National Volunteer Force (NVF). This left the splinter group in control of the IVF. Members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) also joined the British war effort. They were mobilized separately from NVF. The UVF men and other Unionists were organized as the 36th Ulster Division. This division was heavily engaged on the Somme (July 1916). The Somme was one of the most costly engagements fought by the British Army. Losses were dreadful. Out of the 10,000 men of the 36th Ulster there were 5,000 casualties. The sacrifice of the 26th Ulster demonstated the loyalty of the Irish unionists. This affected British attitudes to home rule. An estimated 250,000 Irish men from north and south served in World War I. They came together during the Messines offensive (1917). As many as 50,000 Irish died during the war. The Easter Rebellion was staged in Dublin (1916). Irish Nationalists like most Europeans had thought the War would quickly be over, at which time the question of home rule coldbe taken up again. When the War continued throughout 1915 and into 1916, it ws clear that the War could continue for some time. The Irish Republican Brotherhood and the splinter IVF decided to tak a bold action against against British rule in Ireland. They planned to take advantage of the fact that the British Army as in France with only a small force in Ireland. The Easter Rising was mastermined by Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, and Joseph Plunkett. Roger Casement was to obtain German weapons. The British intercepted the weapons, but the Rising occurred as planned on Easter Monday (April 24, 1916). Although unsuccessful it was the first action that would eventually lead to Irish independence after the War. Italy

Independence Struggle (1919-22)

Although the Easter Rebellion (1916) was quikly put down by the British, the Rising had a profound impact on Irish public opinion. Undoubtedly the losses on the Western Front were another factor. By the end of the War, an increasing number of Irish people wanted to breal their ties with Britain. A vicious civil war occurred in Ireland after World War. Irish resistance was centered in the Irish Republican Army (IRA) which assasinated British officials, British landlords, and their Irish supporters. The British answered with the equally violent Black and Tans. The IRA was made into an effective group in large measure through the leadership of Michael Collins. Eventually the British offered the Irish all but the six counties of northern Ireland--Ulster.

Irish Free State (1922-48)

The Government of Ireland Act sets up two parliaments, one in Dublin and one in Belfast. This creates the Irish Free State, ruled by the Dublin parliament, but nominally still under the British crown. leaves Northern Ireland part of the UK. Violence escalated as Catholics oppose partition. Collins eventually accepted the British offer knowing it was the best he could get at the time. The result in the creation of the Irish Free State which eventually became the Irish Republic. There is considerable Catholic opposition to partition in both the Irish Free State and Ulster. An IRA faction opposing an end to the armed struggle without gaining Ulster assasinated Collins. The provisional Irish Government eventually supresses the IRA violence. More than 1,000 IRA supporters were arrested and inprisoned without trial. The Irish Free state after World War II became the Irish Republic.


Gibney, John. The Shadow of a Year: The 1641 Rebellion in Irish History & Memory (2012).


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Created: 12:07 AM 5/5/2006
Last updated: 2:47 PM 7/28/2016