Ireland A Social History-from the Celts to the foundation of Unionism and Republicanism
There are two sources of inspiration for this newly published book. The first arose by way of a trawl through some old papers of my late great grandfather, a farmer, in North Kerry. The deeds registering the land he farmed provided for the continuation of sporting rights, in his lifetime, for Lindsay Talbot Crosbie, the vendor and landlord. The Crosbies, local landlords had acquired the land, some 10,000 acres, by way of Elizabeth I in the late sixteenth century. There is also an association with Trinity College as Elizabeth gifted land in this area to Trinity College Dublin. Prior to that it was owned and farmed by the Cistercian Kyrie Elision Abbey up to the dissolution of the monasteries. The Cistercians had been gifted land by O’Thorna, the local Gaelic chieftain in 1154. Prior to that there was the traditions associated with local Celtic saints, monastics and clans.
The Normans of course have a long association with this area with their arrival of the Fitzmaurices and Stacks in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Further evidence arises in the Cromwellian period when the land remained unforfeited as it was occupied according to the Down Survey by English Protestants. The Crosbies continued as the mainstay landlords right up to the time of the Wyndham Act of 1903, which provided for tenant purchase. (Wyndham was a great grandson of Lord Edward Fitzgerald). From my research it appears that my great grandfather and his forebears had been tenants on the land, for a hundred years or more, prior to its purchase in 1907. The trawl of itself led me on a journey that took me through the various stages of Irish history from the early Christians and Celts, the Normans, Tudors, Cromwell, Williamite wars and on to the land agitation of the nineteenth century. The guiding thread it can be argued was the ownership of the land and the social relations formed in this process. Petty, in the sixteenth century astutely observed, ‘the people of Ireland are all in factions or parties, called English and Irish, Protestants and Papists; though, indeed, the real distinction is vested and divested of the land.’
The second inspiration for writing a book on Irish social history was my own involvement in the trade union and labour movement and politics, nationally and internationally, over the best part of my lifetime and the experiences garnered from these involvements. I have sought in the book to approach the subject of Irish society from a different perspective and to approach the historic scholarship with an alternative view to the generally accepted narratives of Irish history or as Gramsci noted ‘social constructs that benefit only the ruling classes-their view becoming the accepted view’. Over the past forty years I have worked and engaged with colleagues, workplaces and communities in Ireland, both jurisdictions, England, Scotland, and Wales, the United States, Australia and most European countries, Central and Southern Latin America, African, Middle East, Indian and Asian countries.
Most if not all of these countries either have an imperial or colonial past, depending on which end of the stick you grasp. If you study their history there are many common and shared experiences with Irish history and Ireland having been one of, if not the first, colonies of the British Empire is a template for many others. The impact of Norman feudalism on clan systems goes a long way to explaining the major structural and social change this brought in English and Irish society and Europe more generally. The Tudors, Levellers and Cromwell all contributed to creating the bourgeoisie. Colonial expansion and empire changed in many ways European and Irish society and ultimately led to plantations, native exploitation and the despicable slave trade. The American and French revolutions in turn led to further major societal change and Ireland was heavily influenced by both. The early foundations of modern day Unionism and Republicanism can be found in this epoch and provides an understanding of the background to the proceeding societal development, demands for independence, sectarianism and partition.
The final element in producing any book is of course having it published. That of course is not before the need to shape, proof and present the content in a way which the potential reader will find it of sufficient interest to engage with it. In Vanessa of writing.ie I found a welcome resource in this regard, she brought her experience, and that of her colleague Tim Carey, to my assistance and they were more than helpful in helping me to finalise the content.
The publishing experience of itself can be off-putting when you have had your much loved and laboured over submission rejected by publishers. Unfortunately, that is the experience of many first time writers for better or for worse. Additionally, in this pandemic era when bookshops are closed, other than online, and there are no social gatherings for launches etc. it adds to the difficulties never mind the distribution and publicity problems. Well don’t let it put you off, there is always the self-publishing route and I am happy to say that is where I duly arrived after some research.
Kindle publishing provided me with a good deal of advice and brought my manuscript to the published stage where it is now available as a Kindle e-book or paperback. Enjoy the read.
(c) Jerh Shanahan
About Ireland A Social History:
In a year which celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the Irish War of Independence this book is entirely relevant.
This comprehensive, meticulously-researched book offers readers (both familiar and unfamiliar with Irish history) an opportunity to review and re-examine their knowledge – from the Celts of the first century through to the foundation of Unionism and Republicanism in the latter part of the 18th and early 19th centuries. It seeks to explore the narrative that readers are generally exposed to in the revisionist version of Irish history.
As its title suggests, Ireland a Social History presents from a social perspective and invites the reader to reconsider the mostly accepted narratives which often represent the dominant class understanding of Irish History or as Gramsci observed; social constructs that benefit only the ruling classes – their view becoming the accepted view.
Order your copy online here.