Ireland: A History
Learn about the land behind St. Patty's Day!
Ireland is a wonderful land with a rich and colorful history. But before you go drinking your heart away, get to know a little something about this little island in the North Atlantic, and how it's made such a big impact on Western culture and civilization.
From pre-history to the modern day, let's take a look back in time into Irish history... (Before the drinking starts...well, maybe not )
Pre History and Antiquity
During the last Ice Age, most of Ireland was covered by glacial ice for most of that era. During this time, Ireland was connected to Britain and thus continental Europe by land due to the lower sea levels. Around 10,500 BCE the very first evidence of humans on Ireland pops up in the form of a tool made of bear bone. Around 4500 BCE is when we start to see neolithic style settlements pop up in Ireland. About 3000 years later, at the start of the Iron Age, the Celtic languages and culture emerged in Ireland.
The earliest written accounts of Ireland come from Greco-Roman sources, with Ptolemy calling Ireland, "Little Britain" in his Almagest. He later changes this name to Iouernia, presumably after contact with indigenous people had been made. In 100 CE Ptolemy reported that sixteen tribes inhabited the whole of Ireland. Roman coins have also been found in Ireland dating to this period to the first century.
The Middle Ages
In 432 CE, Saint Patrick arrived in Ireland and became the apostle of the Irish. There are many legends associated with Saint Patrick. Such as the famed shamrock parable, where he compared the three-leaf shamrock to the holy trinity. In the 7th century, a High King of Ireland emerged, helping establish the idea of a national Irish identity.
In the 12th century, the Normans were already century-old rulers in England, and when Dermot Mac Murrough fled to Anjou in 1166, he asked King Henry II for assistance in reconquering his kingdom of Leinster. Henry made good on his promise and sent some 600 Anglo-Norman Knights. In 1172, he imposed a tithe with the support and of Pope Alexander III and became the Lord of Ireland. In the 1300s, the black death ravaged Europe, England, and Ireland causing Norman rule to decline.
The Modern Period
In the mid 16th century, King Henry VIII reconquered the island and recreated the Kingdom of Ireland. English power over Ireland was consolidated during the conflicts of the 1600s, particularly Cromwell's conquest of the Island. The religious struggles of the same century also fractured Ireland, leading to a new Anglo-Irish ruling elite enriched by disenfranchising catholics and protestant dissenters.
In 1798, these subjugated groups rebelled with the aid of the French in an attempt to create an independent Irish republic, but to no avail. The rebellion was put down by the British and in 1801, the Acts of Union was passed in the English parliament, merging the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. 40 years later, the Great Famine would take a third of all Irish lives and cause massive immigration out of Ireland, particularly to North America.
Irish nationalism blossomed in the 19th century. This started to come to a head in 1914 when a controversial Home Rule Bill was put on hold due to the outbreak of the Great War. The Easter Rising of 1916 coupled with ongoing war caused the national mood to top towards independence. In 1919, the Republic of Ireland was proclaimed, prompting a three-year war. The Anglo-Irish treaty was signed in 1921 with the six counties of Ulster deciding to remain part of the United Kingdom.
Today there are calls to fully unite the whole of Ireland under one government, but the same old disputes come up between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. As both the UK (for now) and Ireland are part of the European Union, there is open borders for people, goods, and capital. Recently, "all-island" institutions have been created in order to serve the island as a whole when necessary.
There, now you can go drink your face off. With all this knowledge, you'll surely be the one being kissed by an Irish man or woman this St. Paddy's Day!