Actualités | 2014

The aristocracy in seventeenth-century Ireland: wider contexts and comparisons

Jeudi 15 mai à 17h30

Séance du PRI Mondes britanniques organisée conjointement avec le Séminaire franco-britannique d’histoire (Université Paris IV-Sorbonne, en partenariat avec l'Institute of Historical Research (University of London), le Groupe d'histoire intellectuelle (Université Paris 8-Vincennes-Saint-Denis) et le CREA (Université Paris Ouest-Nanterre-La Défense).

The aristocracy in seventeenth-century Ireland :
wider contexts and comparisons

Jane Ohlmeyer (Trinity College, Dublin)


This paper provides a brief introduction to the seventeenth-century Irish aristocracy. It examines the role that these lords played in shaping early modern Ireland; how they made Ireland English.  It also situates the study of these aristocrats in the wider context of noble studies and reflects on why Irish historians have not studied the aristocracy as a collective.  Finally, the paper seeks to draw out some comparisons between the aristocracy in Ireland and their counterparts in the composite monarchies of Britain, Spain and Austria. The seventeenth century was a transformational period in Irish history, just as it was across Europe.  Despite enjoying the constitutional status of a kingdom, England treated Ireland as a colony.  Thus years of intense plantation and anglicisation characterised the early decades of the seventeenth century which were followed, during the 1640s, by a bloody civil warfare during which the majority catholic population attempted to secure greater freedom within the context of the Stuart kingdoms.  English (and protestant) reconquest after 1649 and a revolution in landholding, which saw an unprecedented transfer of land from catholics to protestants, defined the 1650s. The restoration of Charles II ushered in a period of relative peace and prosperity until 1688, when a bitter sectarian conflict once again embroiled the country. Out of this emerged the Protestant Ascendancy of the eighteenth century.  The fact that during these years Ireland, like other states across early modern Europe, was responding to similar sets of pressures - state formation, confessionalisation, the professionalisation of warfare and so on - facilitate meaningful comparisons around the contributions that their aristocracies made to these transformative processes.


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