Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

October Books 10) The Dissolution of the Religious Orders in Ireland under Henry VIII, by Brendan Br

I knew Brendan Bradshaw, genial and intellectual priest and historian, while I was a student at Cambridge - indeed, I asked him to marry me, but unfortunately he wasn't available on the day. (I will wait while you unscramble that sentence.)

I hadn't realised how big a contribution this book had been to Irish historical studies. It is a micro-study of one policy area concentrated on a period of a few years and geographically restricted mainly to the core areas of English rule in Ireland. But he puts forward, entirely convincingly, the evidence that the suppression of the Irish monasteries was driven at least as much by local circumstances and leaders as by the demands of Henry VIII, and that in fact it was no big deal - the monasteries had long since lost their way as centres of spiritual leadership, or even providers of public welfare, and had become blocks on economic and political development. The monks were in general easily bought off, and the only demonstration of popular protest against their dissolution was the successful mobilisation of public opinion in Dublin to save Christ Church Cathedral. The policy enabled Henry VIII to pull the Gaelic lords (and the Earl of Desmond) more tightly into his project of transforming Ireland from a Lordship to a Kingdom, with considerable success.

Of course, I'm reading this as background for my own Tudor Ireland project. One James White, the recorder of Waterford, is recorded as having visited Cork in the spring of 1541 in order to help survey and dissolve the monasteries in both city and county. It's not an uncommon name, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if this is the same James White who was my direct ancestor and died of poisoning while visiting London five years later.
Tags: bookblog 2009, world: ireland

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