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Medieval Ireland
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Book description

Medieval Ireland is often described as a backward-looking nation in which change only came about as a result of foreign invasions. By examining the wealth of under-explored evidence available, Downham challenges this popular notion and demonstrates what a culturally rich and diverse place medieval Ireland was. Starting in the fifth century, when St Patrick arrived on the island, and ending in the fifteenth century, with the efforts of the English government to defend the lands which it ruled directly around Dublin by building great ditches, this up-to-date and accessible survey charts the internal changes in the region. Chapters dispute the idea of an archaic society in a wide-range of areas, with a particular focus on land-use, economy, society, religion, politics and culture. This concise and accessible overview offers a fresh perspective on Ireland in the Middle Ages and overthrows many enduring stereotypes.


‘Clare Downham’s Medieval Ireland offers a fresh and stimulating perspective on culture, politics, religion, and the arts during a crucial period in Irish history. Combining her own researches with the latest studies, Downham’s lively and engaging narrative makes this book accessible to the general reader as much as the rigour of her scholarship presents new vistas to the specialist.’

Benjamin Hudson - Pennsylvania State University

‘This thought-provoking work is the first of its kind in over a generation to survey a full millennium of Ireland’s medieval history. Drawing on the latest research, the author bridges the conventional historiographical boundary marked by the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169 and presents Ireland’s social and cultural experience during the Middle Ages in all its richness. This is a subject that has fascinated generations of students who have not had, until now, a reliable textbook to guide further exploration.’

Peter Crooks - Trinity College Dublin

‘Clare Downham’s Medieval Ireland is by far the most up-to-date, balanced and scholarly introduction to the whole history of Ireland in the millennium from the beginnings of literacy to the end of the Middle Ages. It is quite remarkably successful in its coverage not just of all periods but of all the main strands of history, religious and artistic as well as economic and political. For any course that seeks to cover the medieval history of these islands, it will be a foundational text.’

Thomas Charles-Edwards - University of Oxford

‘Surprisingly few histories of medieval Ireland have ever been written, almost all of which focus on either the early or the later Middle Ages. The great benefit of Downham's book is that it straddles both, and does so on the whole skilfully, knowledgeably and accurately.’

Sean Duffy - Trinity College Dublin

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