Clanricard and Thomond, 1540–1640

Provincial politics and society transformed

Bernadette Cunningham

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ISBN: 978-1-84682-352-7
September 2012. 72pp.

This book compares and contrasts key developments in two neighbouring lordships in counties Galway and Clare, investigating how and why the impact of central government policy was ultimately dictated by local circumstances. As royal authority expanded in early modern Connacht, English common law replaced Gaelic custom and local lordships were transformed into landed estates on the English model. The willingness of the Burkes of Clanricard and the O’Briens of Thomond to condone a process of anglicization, under the auspices of a provincial presidency, allowed them stabilize their authority within a new political structure. By the early seventeenth century the earls of Clanricard and Thomond were working to consolidate their English-style landed estates in changed political circumstances. When government-sponsored plantation threatened in the 1620s, the active, if self-interested, participation by the earls in the debate over land titles in the province further enhanced their power both locally and in the broader political sphere. By comparing the processes of political and social change in the two lordships, this study illustrates the centrality of local political considerations in determining the direction of societal change in early modern Connacht.

Bernadette Cunningham is a native of Corofin, Co. Galway, and a graduate of NUI, Galway and of UCD. She is deputy librarian at the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin. Her most recent book is The Annals of the Four Masters: Irish history, kingship and society in the early seventeenth century (Dublin, 2010).