Special Interests:
Wedding Traditions
Working in Ireland
Irish Citizenship
A site is included in WEB FEET only if our team of experienced educators, librarians, and editors think it is an outstanding site in its subject area.
Irish Foods to Your Door Rent a Car in Ireland  
16th - 18th Century
In the 16th century the Tudor monarchs began a re conquest of Ireland. Henry VIII declared himself king of Ireland in 1541, the first English monarch to do so.

The Tudors introduced new English settlers and embarked on a series of military campaigns against the Gaelic Irish and the great Anglo-Norman lords who had fallen away in their allegiance to the Crown.

When the army of Elizabeth defeated the Irish at the battle of Kinsale in 1601, it marked the beginning of a new order. The native political system was overthrown and for the first time the entire country was run by a strong English central Government.

From the 16th century onwards the English Government made strenuous efforts to impose Protestantism. The reformed religion did not really take root, however, partly due to its close association with the repressive policies of the English administration. The main exception was in Ulster where the Government promoted a successful colonisation by new settlers, mostly Scottish Presbyterians. Religion added complexity to the political situation. The new colonists were Protestant and formed a distinct group from the Old English, the remnants of the Anglo-Irish colony who were still Catholic and increasingly disaffected from the Government.

To a large extent political power and office were now in the hands of the colonists, the New English. When the Gaelic Irish of Ulster rebelled against the Government in 1641 they were soon joined by their Old English co-religionists.

In 1642 a rebel assembly, the Confederation of Kilkenny, met, but divisions soon appeared as Ireland became enmeshed in the English civil war between King and Parliament. The rebellion was ruthlessly crushed by Oliver Cromwell and his parliamentary army. Further Protestant colonisation took place under Cromwell. This time the large-scale confiscation of land and the banishment of its former owners to the poorer areas of the country ensured that property and political power passed to the new colonists.

The accession of the Catholic King James II in 1685 changed the situation only temporarily. His pro-Catholic stance was unpopular in England and Scotland and among the Ulster Scots. When William of Orange challenged James II for the throne the entire country except Ulster backed James. The two kings contested their throne in Ireland and William emerged victorious after a series of battles, the most famous being William's defeat of James at the Boyne in 1690. William's victory left the Irish Catholics politically helpless and made possible the Protestant ascendancy that followed.

Many leading Catholics like Patrick Sarsfield (James' commander-in-chief) went abroad to serve in continental armies.

18th Century

Throughout the 18th century Catholics were seen as a threat who might rally in support of a Stuart attempt to regain the English throne. The Government enforced a severe code of penal legislation against them. The Presbyterians also suffered religious disabilities but on a much lesser scale. Power was concentrated in the hands of the small Protestant ascendancy.

The American War of Independence had an important influence on Irish politics. The American example encouraged the Protestant ascendancy to press for a measure of colonial self-government. In 1782 the Irish parliament, hitherto subservient to London, was granted independence. Ireland was now effectively a separate kingdom sharing a monarch with England, but the Dublin administration was still appointed by the King.

One of the leading figures in this parliament was Henry Grattan. From 1778 onwards the penal legislation against Catholics was gradually repealed. The parliament made moves to improve and liberalise trade.

The French Revolution, with its ideas of equality and liberty, had a major impact on Ireland. The Society of the United Irishmen was founded in 1791 to press for radical reform. Its members were mainly Presbyterians from the north. The leading figures were Wolfe Tone, Napper Tandy and Lord Edward Fitzgerald. The war with France led to severe military repression in Ireland. The United Irishmen rebelled in 1798, aiming to unite Catholics and Protestants, including Presbyterians, and to break Ireland's link with England. In spite of French help the rebellion was badly organised and easily suppressed. After the defeat of the rebellion, the London Government decided to unite the British and Irish parliaments. The Irish parliament, an unrepresentative assembly, was induced to vote itself out of existence in 1800.