In modern history there are few countries which present the historian with the kind of interpretative challenge offered by Ireland. The general outlines of the problem are well known—the impact on the island of successive waves of colonisation; the endemic unrest, religious strife, and political instability, exemplified in recent times by the partition of the island between two states; and the interaction and conflict since the middle ages of two cultures and two peoples, Gaelic and English. These salient features of Irish history raise the question of an appropriate historiographical framework within which the island’s history might be interpreted—if we accept that Ireland’s historical experience cannot be understood in isolation. In an article published in this journal three years ago, I outlined an alternative perspective on the history of late medieval Ireland which, it seemed to me, also held possibilities for other periods of Irish history. In the course of the discussion, the article also urged the modification or replacement of particular terms and concepts which have traditionally been used by historians but which, I argued, are an obstacle to a more balanced, pluralistic understanding of Ireland’s past. The article has since attracted a reply by Dr Brendan Bradshaw, on which the journal’s editors have kindly allowed me to comment.