Hospitality in medieval Ireland, 900–1500

Catherine Marie O'Sullivan

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ISBN: 1-85182-745-5
November 2004. 272pp.

Hospitality was, without question, one of the most important social institutions in medieval Ireland. It occupied a prominent place in the pantheon of virtues most revered by medieval Irishmen, and a central position in the legal, economic and political value systems of the day.

Above all, however, the fundamental principles governing the provision of hospitality were rooted in religious and secular law, so that it was not only an inescapable obligation, but also a basic right for the men and women of medieval Ireland. This groundbreaking book reconstructs, from a tremendous range of documentary sources, the practice of hospitality, in its widest sense, and addresses the motivating forces that lay behind its provision, reception and reciprocation. Guesting, feasting and gift-giving are central themes in the book, alongside focused discussions on important topics such as the briugu (hospitaller), and the practicalities of providing hospitality. This book adds appreciably to our knowledge of a hitherto much neglected aspect of Irish social history, and will appeal to the general reader and specialist alike.

Catherine O’Sullivan holds an MPhil. and MLitt. from Trinity College Dublin and works as an archivist in New York City.