§ 1. The Colonization of Ireland
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 § 1. The Colonization of Ireland 

1. Who were the first invaders on the Irish territory? 

Ireland was never invaded by either the Romans or the Anglo-Saxons. It had a flourishing Celtic Culture. People lived in tribes, the kings were chosen by election. Five kingdoms grew up in Ireland: Ulster in the North, Munster in the southwest, Leinster in the southeast, Connaught in the west, with Тага as the seat of the high kings of Ireland.

Christianity came to Ireland in about AD 430. It was brought to the country by a British slave, Patrick, who became the patron saint of Ire­land. Christian monasteries grew up and culture flowered, but the five king­doms were often at war. This ‘golden age’ ended with the arrival of Vikings, who robbed monasteries. Nevertheless, Viking raids forced the Irish to unite. In 859 Ireland chose its first high king, but the chieftains quarreled each time a new king was chosen. As an effective method of rule the high kingship of Ireland lasted only twelve years, from 1002 to 1014, while Ireland was ruled by Brian Born. He is still considered as Ireland's greatest ruler.

In 1169 Ireland was conquered by Norman lords. Henry II forced the Irish chiefs and Norman lords to accept his lordship, and made Dublin, the old Viking town, the capital of his new colony. Much of Western Ireland remained in the hands of Irish chiefs, while Norman lords governed most of the east. Both quietly avoided English authority as much as possible, and, as a result, the English Crown only controlled Dublin and a small area around it, known as ‘the Pale’.

The Irish chiefs continued to live as they always had done, moving from place to place, and eating out of doors, a habit they only gave up in the 16th century. The Anglo-Irish lords, on the other hand, built strong stone castles, but became almost completely independent of the English Crown. Such state of things had lasted till the time of Henry VIII, who destroyed the power of Anglo-Irish noble families and persuaded the Irish parliament to recognise him as king of Ireland. 

2. What did the British conquest of Ireland result in? 

Henry VIII tried to make the Irish ac­cept his English Church Reformation. But in   Ireland the monasteries and the Church were still an important part of economic and social life. The Irish nobility and gentry felt it was too dangerous to take monastic land and refused to touch it. When an Anglo-Irish noble rebelled against Henry VIII, he did so in the name of Catholicism. Henry VIII failed to get what he wanted in Ireland. In fact he made things worse by bringing Irish nationalism and Catholicism together against English rule.

It is possible that, without the danger of foreign invasion, the Tudors might have given up trying to control the Irish. But Ireland tempted Catholic Europe as a place from which to attack the English. In 1580, during Elizabeth I’s reign, many Irish rebelled, encouraged by the arrival of a few Span­ish and French soldiers. The rebellious population was treated with great cruelty by the English.

The Tudors fought four wars during the period to make the Irish ac­cept their authority and their religion. Ulster was an especially difficult area to bring under control. The soldiers of the province of Ulster successfully fought against Elizabeth I’s armies until 1603, but were finally defeated. Then the ‘Plantation of Ulster’ began. ‘Plantation’ meant that twenty-three new towns were built in Ulster to protect the needs of 170.000 new Protestant settlers known as ‘planters’, most of whom came from Scotland.

Religion separated the planters and native Irishmen. The Scots plant­ers were Presbyterians, a form of Protestantism, and they were deeply sus­picious of Catholics and Catholicism. The seeds of the land problem were also sowed then. The Protestant settlers took most of the good land, and native Irish were forced to leave or to work for the new-comers. The coun­ty of Deny in Ulster was taken over by a group of London merchants. The town was renamed Londonderry, after its new owners. On the other hand, the settlers brought with them their own laws and customs relating to land, which encouraged greater social stability and economic growth. The Scots also placed great emphasis on education and hard work, and they were good at business. Ulster became more industrialized, the old Gaelic way of life was destroyed and English government introduced sooner in this region. 


1. What were the origins of Irish people?

2. What were the ancient Irish ways of life?

3. When did the colonization start?

4. When was Ireland brought under systematic control?

5. When did the ‘Plantation’ of Ulster begin? What did it mean?

6. What idea united the Irish national forces in their anti-English struggle?

7. Why did Spain and France support the Irish? 

Additional Reading                              How Ireland Got Its Name 

There is an old legend about Ireland. The legend tells us that the famous Green Isle was at one time hidden under water. But the water only retreated for a short while every seventh year. During such a time when the island appeared out of the water it looked so green and beau­tiful that many brave people tried to build homes and remain on it. Then the beautiful island would be swallowed up by the sea again and disappear for another seven years.

It was known, however, that the island could be saved from the sea only by burying a piece of iron in its heart as soon as it appeared out of the water. Since that time iron was believed to be a luck-bringing metal.

When another seven years passed and the island appeared out of the water, a certain brave man came to it and buried his sword in its heart. After that the island was not swallowed up by the waves again. Because of this legend the island came to be known as Ironland or Ireland. It is because of this tradition that iron is always believed to be lucky by the Irish, and when a piece of iron is found in the form of a horseshoe, it is put up for luck above the house door.