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How did it come about that the Old English were stereotyped as barbarous in early modern Ireland?

How did it come about that the Old English were stereotyped as barbarous in early modern Ireland?

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Corneilius O'Riordan. Originally submitted for Arts at University College Cork, with lecturer Dr Jeremiah D. Scully in the category of Historical Studies & Archaeology
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Corneilius O'Riordan. Originally submitted for Arts at University College Cork, with lecturer Dr Jeremiah D. Scully in the category of Historical Studies & Archaeology

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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02/08/2014

 
 
1.
 
How did it come about that theOld English were stereotyped asbarbarous in early modern Ireland? 
The Old English came to be stereotyped as barbarous due to their socialinteraction with the natives. The fact that both parties involved, the OldEnglish and the Gaelic Irish were both professors of the catholic faith furtherfuelled the arguments being put forward by Reformation era historians andofficials. The accusation of barbarism was made because they were at anearlier time i.e. at the time of the Norman conquest of Ireland one hundredpercent English. English blood free from the believed contamination that arosefrom intermarrying with the native Irish coursed through their veins. Thus bybeing English citizens they were deemed to be by default civilised and as aconsequence should know better than to be cavorting with the natives.The Old English who first came to Ireland as part of a fighting forceheaded by Richard Fitz Gilbert (Strongbow) at the request of Dermot MacMurrough were Norman by ancestral descent. Their roots could be traced backto the great succession debacle which arose following the death of the heirlessking of England, Edward the Confessor. The debacle reached a bloody climax in
 
 
the year 1066 on the battlefield of Hastings, the Norman invaders under thecommand of William the Conqueror successfully routing an Anglo-Saxon forceled by Harold Godwin. The Anglo-Norman conquest of Ireland which followedcreated the environment which allowed Henry II of England to establish hisrightful lordship over Ireland, in this way Ireland became attached to theEnglish crown and her future history became inextricably bound up with thatof England
1
.The first man to draw up an eye witness account of the Norman Conquestslandering Ireland in the process was Gerald of Wales. The
TopographiaHibernica
which French philosopher Michel Foucault called a foundational textof the discourse that constructs the Irish as barbarians
2
was delivered in aspeech at Oxford in 1188 over a period of three days. Gerald began by justifying the conquest of Ireland which had the approval of Adrian IV throughthe issuing of a Papal bull Laudabiliter . The Laudabiliter ordered the moral,cultural and ecclesiastical reform of Ireland. It is worth noting the Laudabiliterwas granted to a Catholic king i.e. King Henry II, in the forthcoming years and inparticular the period of time when the English monarchy turned away fromRome favouring instead the fledgling Protestant faith, the same argumentswere put forward by Protestant historians with regards to the Tudor conquest
1
Lydon, James,
The Making of Ireland,
Routledge, London, 1998, pp.56
2
Carroll, Clare,
Circe’s Cup,
Cork University Press in association with Field Day, Cork, 2001, pp.14
 
 
of Ireland. They cited the papal commandment of 1155 to reform Ireland, onecan argue that the circumstances surrounding the initial invasion werecompletely alien to those of the Tudor conquest the greatest being the religionchange. Thus the early modern historians were prone to pick and choose whatfacts they put in or left out especially with regards to Ireland. Returning toGerald, Ireland is placed within the same brackets or confines as the East. Bothplaces were in his eyes mystical places outside of European culture, bothplaces were in need of colonization only coming into history at the time whenthey are conquered. Must significantly both places were places of great wealthwhich could and would be extracted drawing on the Latin verb
colere-
meaningto be put to use or to be made value of 
3
. Even though Ireland like England of that day was a catholic country Gerald still saw fit to chastise the Irish people,bemoaning their ignorance with regards to faith, he also attacks as aconsequence the Irish bishops for failing to reprimand the people.
4
Geraldcontinues to draw down the faults of the Irish. On the one hand they are said
to be ‘so barbarous as they cannot be said to have any culture’, and on theother they are praised for their ‘reading and praying’, and abstinence
and
asceticism’
5
. Attention is also drawn to various freaks of nature that were saidto have inhabited the island of Ireland, a man that was half an ox, a man who
3
Carroll, Clare,
Circe’s Cup,
Cork University Press in association with Field Day, Cork, 2001, p.p. 15
 
4
Carroll, Clare,
Circe’s Cup,
Cork University Press in association with Field Day, Cork, 2001, p.p. 15
5
Carroll, Clare,
Circe’s Cup,
Cork University Press in association with Field Day, Cork, 2001, p.p. 16

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