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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: October 2013

4 - Political Organisation in Dál Riata


An examination of the evidence provided by medieval Irish chronicles for political organisation in the Gaelic world before about 1200 has shown that there was an absolute minimum of 600 population groups led by kings in the 750 years of record from the mid-fifth to the late twelfth century. The distribution of these across time and space is interestingly complicated, and detailed discussion of it will have to await publication of the evidence. Suffice it to say, for the moment, that, contrary to what has been stated by some historians over the last generation, the local kingship of local population groups is as visible in Ireland in the twelfth century as it is in the seventh. For what is now Scotland, of course, one could not make any such statement: from the later ninth century at the very latest (and arguably from the mid-eighth) Gaelic North Britain underwent a series of transformations, not the least aspect of which is the dramatic reduction in coverage of its affairs in the extant Irish chronicles – which date, as they stand, from the late eleventh to the mid-seventeenth century.