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Irish Barbarianism and1691 rebellion

Uploaded by Kerrytom on Aug 10, 2013

The English had long held views on the Irish as being a ‘barbaric’ people before the rebellion of 1641, but this rebellion served to intensify and bring to the fore these opinions. In order to fully comprehend the enhancing of these views from after the rebellion, one must fully understand what the pre-existing views were.

The first and most prudent place to start when discussing these misconceptions of the Irish people and society is from the writings of Gerald of Wales. His descriptions of the native Irish was first published in the twelfth-century and were not even close to being objective. He describes the Irish as barbarous, rude, of living like beasts, amongst other things, all of which point to a wholly uncivilised society, which was inherently inferior to the English. “Irish ‘barbarism’, which ‘clung to them like a second nature’, was the product of the islands geographical isolation from the more advanced societies; and it manifested itself in both material poverty and moral depravity: ‘Thus, this people is a barbarous race, and true barbarous.....and all of their customs are barbarisms.’”

Gerald’s writings were used by English historians, such as Edmund Spenser and John Davies, for centuries to come as the authoritative work on Irish society and history and supported their views on the ‘uncivilised Irish’. “As late as the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Giraldus defined the tradition of English writing on Ireland, being the most widely read authority on Irish customs as well as Irish history.” Spenser discusses certain characteristics of the Irish, which in his mind places them in an uncivilised category. His views on the appearances of the Irish are unfavourable. “They have another custome from the Scythians, that is the wearing of manteles and longe glebbes, which is a thicke curled bushe of heare, hanging downe over their eyes, and monstrously disguysinge them, which are both very badd and hurtfull.” An area of Irish custom which both Spenser and Davies found to be an issue in the advancement of the Irish civilisation was the practice of gavelkind and tanistry. These were practices which affected inheritance and the passing on of land back to the clan, rather than the family heir after death. “In this course went all theyr possessions, the chainge and translaccion whereof by soe manie elections and partitions was the cause that there were noe howses built nor townes erected among...

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Uploaded by:   Kerrytom

Date:   08/10/2013

Category:   History

Length:   7 pages (1,499 words)

Views:   1139

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