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My first Irish history book of the year, this one looking not so much at the big picture of Irish history as specifically at the colonisation policies pursued by English (and Scottish) officials in Ireland from 1580 until the Cromwellian settlement resolved the land issue for three centuries.

Canny argues persuasively that the intellectual agenda for colonisation (or 'plantation' in local dialect) was set out by Spenser in both The Faerie Queene and the View of the Present State of Ireland, and while it wasn't the whole-hearted policy of either the royal court in London or of the Dublin Castle administration, it became inevitable after the Flight of the Earls and the fact that the viceroys under James I were themselves deeply involved with plantation. He also finds that Wentworth/Strafford, who was executed largely on suspicion of being too nice to Irish Catholics, was actually secretly pursuing a pro-plantation agenda which was as extreme as Cromwell's ten years later. In fact Irish Catholics found it difficult to resist the creeping dispossession of their lands precisely because it was never enshrined as government policy, so the traditional idea that appealing to the King or Queen might sort out the more hostile local officials never quite got lost until 1649. Lots of interesting detail about what life was like in Ireland at the period, including how widespread the use of Irish was in the Pale and the curious incident of the Pathan who settled near Roscrea. Not quite enough for my purposes on my own ancestors - both the sixteenth-century Sir Nicholas White and his seventeenth-century grandson of the same name are mentioned, but the story is not really about them or their people. Still, a very interesting read.

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