Published online by Cambridge University Press: 31 July 2009
Our understanding of the political and social history of provincial Ireland in the early modern period has been retarded by a conspiracy – more passive than active, more assumed than asserted – between two contrasting and divergent historiographies. The first, the dominant partner in this unintended conspiracy, has been the great master-narrative of Irish history, which, regardless of local variations and accommodations, has given overwhelming prominence to the principal themes of conflict, conquest and confiscation. The second, and less noticed, one has been the work of the local historian, engaged in the more modest pursuits of antiquarian and genealogical research, usually without reference to the assertions of the great national narrative, rarely daring to register a disagreement with it, never overtly challenging it, and often suppressing its own genuine discoveries under the weight of the dominant tradition. The losses arising from this tactful arrangement have been several, perpetuating a misunderstanding of events, of individuals, and of social and cultural practices. But one of its most serious costs has been the disregard of an important alternative framework of analysis which, intervening between the larger level of nation or country and the lower level of locality and the individual, has elsewhere provided a most fertile soil for the growth of a better appreciation of historical change. By this I mean the region.