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THE OXFORD HISTORY OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE - Higher Intellect

319 Pages · 2007 · 3.2 MB · English

  • THE OXFORD HISTORY OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE - Higher Intellect

    THE OXFORD HISTORY OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE


    companion series THE OXFORD HISTORY OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE


    Volume I. The Origins of Empire


    edited by Nicholas Canny


    Volume II. The Eighteenth Century


    edited by P. J. Marshall


    Volume III. The Nineteenth Century


    edited by Andrew Porter


    Volume IV. The Twentieth Century


    edited by Judith M. Brown and Wm. Roger Louis


    Volume V. Historiography


    edited by Robin W. Winks THE OXFORD HISTORY OF THE BRITISH EMPIRE


    companion series


    Wm. Roger Louis, CBE, D.Litt., FBA


    KerrProfessorofEnglishHistoryandCulture,UniversityofTexas,Austin


    andHonoraryFellowofStAntony’sCollege,Oxford


    editor-in-chief


    u


    Ireland and the


    British Empire


    u


    Kevin Kenny


    ProfessorofHistory,BostonCollege


    editor


    1 3


    GreatClarendonStreet,Oxfordox26dp


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    Firstpublished2004


    Firstpublishedinpaperback2006


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    1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 EDITOR-IN-CHIEF’S FOREWORD


    The purpose of the Wve volumes of the Oxford History of the British


    Empire was to provide a comprehensive survey of the Empire from its


    beginning to end, to explore the meaning of British imperialism for the


    ruled as well as the rulers, and to study the signiWcance of the British


    Empire as a theme in world history. The volumes in the Companion


    Series carry forward this purpose. They pursue themes that could not be


    covered adequately in the main series while incorporating recent research


    andprovidingfreshinterpretationsofsigniWcant topics.


    Wm.RogerLouis This page intentionally left blank FOREWORD


    nicholas canny


    A book entitled Ireland and the British Empire might well have been pub-


    lished any time between 1880 and 1904. Then the character of its author


    and the nature of its contents would have been entirely predictable. Our


    likely author would have been a public man-of-letters of Protestant back-


    ground and sympathy who harboured grave reservations concerning the


    various Home Rule measures that were then in prospect for Ireland. In


    writing his book he would have been seeking to persuade his readers—


    men and women of leisure and inXuence—to oppose any weakening of


    Ireland’s constitutional ties with Britain. He would have done this by


    extolling the beneWts that Ireland had derived from its long association


    with Britain and its Empire, and by praising the contribution that people


    ofIrishbirthorinteresthadmadetoBritain’s imperialachievementsfrom


    the moment of the supposed conception of Empire during the reign


    of Elizabeth I to the pinnacle of its achievement during that of Queen


    Victoria.


    The conceiver of this actual book of 2004 is an editor rather than a sole


    author, and while, like his putative predecessor of a century ago, he is a


    man, this cannot be taken as either necessary or predictable since three of


    the nine essayists arewomen. Neither the editor’s politico-religious prefer-


    ences, nor those of his contributors, appear relevant to what is being dis-


    cussed, and they seem to foster no illusions that what they write will


    inXuence those who make political decisions today. null the less our


    editorandhiscontributorsarejustasinvolvedinpolemicasourimagined


    author of the Victorian era, and they too seek to uphold their position by


    rehearsing Ireland’s association with England and with Britain’s imperial


    achievementsfromthecloseofthesixteenthcenturytothepresent.


    The issues being pursued by the several authors, as well as the editor,


    are evident enough, even if the combatants to the debate are less clearly


    identiWed. The most pressing question, which recurs in each succeeding


    chapter,deliberateswhetherIreland’srelationshipwithEngland(after1603


    Britain) through the centuries can properly be described as colonial, and, viii foreword


    if so, when this inferior status was established and by whom. Then succes-


    sive authors ponder why some of those Catholics of Ireland (and their


    descendants) who were displaced from their lands and positions by Eng-


    lish and Scottish interlopers, subsequently became active participants in


    colonial ventures both in Britain’s overseas possessions and in other for-


    eign empires. This raises the further question of the motivation of those


    many Irish people in every century who attached themselves to Britain’s


    overseas enterprises: were they as ideologically committed as, for example,


    the English and Scots participants, or did some Irish engage for purely


    mercenary motives while they awaited their opportunity to strike against


    Britain in the name of Ireland’s cause? Another recurring issue is the


    extent towhich Ireland was used as a laboratory inwhich imperialexperi-


    ments were Wrst tested before they were later applied on a broader canvas.


    This, it is suggested, might have been the case when colonies were being


    established during the earlier centuries, with their governance during the


    eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and at the moment of their dissol-


    ution in the twentieth. Related to this is the issue of the ‘gendering’ of


    Empire and how the representation of imperial service in masculine terms


    impacted upon the behaviour of Irish people who served the cause. An-


    other, fundamental question concerns the motivation behind England’s


    (later Britain’s) involvement with Ireland, and the issue of proWt and loss


    to Britain from that engagement down through the centuries. Finally, and


    related to many of the foregoing, is the question of Irish communal alle-


    giance. In crude terms this amounts to asking if those Irish people, both


    ProtestantandCatholic, whoserved theBritishinterestwhetherinIreland


    or overseas can be regarded as true Irish people, or whether they became


    hybridizedBritons.


    Once the principal issues raised in this book have been discerned it


    remains to identify those with whom the authors are engaging in debate.


    The question whether, at various times, Ireland is better described as a


    kingdom or a colony has been hotly contested by historians of Ireland for


    severaldecades,andtheauthorshereareobviously seekingtosettlewithin


    an imperial frame that for which no resolution could be found when it


    was deliberated in a purely national context. The issue of balancing the


    proWt against the losses that accrued to Britain as a result of its involve-


    ment with Ireland is also a historians’ one, andmost would agreewith the


    various contributors who conclude that the ultimate consideration for


    rulers in Britain was that of ensuring that Ireland did not fall prey to foreword ix


    Britain’s continental enemies. It strikes one that, as with the analogous


    issue of England’s involvement with the Hundred Years War, a counter-


    factual question might have gone some way to exposing another dimen-


    sion to this question. For the seventeenth century, for example, what


    would have been the political and social consequences for Britain if it


    had not been able, at the conclusion of each of its major military engage-


    ments,tooZoadmanyofitsoYcersand Wghting meninIreland?Equally,


    what would have been the demographic and economic consequence for


    Scotland, as well as for England, if together they had not been able to


    discharge as many as 350,000 people to settle in Ireland over the course of


    that samecentury?


    The issue concerning the morality of the colonized Irish becoming


    active colonizers is one that has been raised principally by scholars in


    other disciplines, and by those historians who, in the context of the his-


    tory of the United States, ask whether, or when, the Irish became ‘white’.


    The contributors to this volume make it clear that when located in the


    much wider context of the British Empire the issue is altogether more


    complex than the originators of the question assume it to be. They also


    suggest—although, to my mind, with insuYcient insistence—that if


    people are to be judged by moral standards, it must be by those they


    themselves cherished rather than by those of the present generation.


    Essentially, as members of a Christian community, Irish Catholics of


    the early-modern centuries—no less than English and Irish Protestants—


    believed themselves, like Christians everywhere, to be duty bound to


    spread their faith to all humanity, and as European inheritors of the


    classical tradition—as educated members of the Old English community


    in Ireland conspicuously were—they would haveaccepted that civil stand-


    ards had always made their principal strides forward when imposed force-


    fully in the wake of conquest. Those who spoke for the Old English


    community objected to plantations in Ireland on pragmatic rather than


    principled grounds: they had objected originally because they were not


    admitted as equals with English-born (and later with lowland Scots)


    people as participants in the settlement of lands that had once belonged


    to the Gaelic Irish, andtheyobjected from the 1630s onwards because they


    themselves, like the Gaelic Irish before them, had became targets of the


    plantationprogrammesponsoredbysuccessive governments.


    The question of whether Irish people who participated in many of


    Britain’s imperial projects were truly committed to the cause or were


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