The Irish Church, its Reform and the English Invasion

Donnchadh Ó Corráin

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April 2022. 160pp.

“In his masterful work, The Irish church, its reform and the English invasion, Donnchadh Ó Corráin sets forth a critical history of the reform movement of the Irish church in the eleventh and twelfth centuries ... Researchers in the areas of medieval Irish history, medieval Irish literature, and church history will discover in Ó Corráin’s book a treasure trove of information and thought-provoking insights in connection with the reform of the Irish church in the medieval period and the historical context in which the reform occurs. Ó Corráin’s realistic and balanced approach sheds light on a movement that influenced the historical development of Ireland and the Church.” Gregory J. Darling, North American Journal of Celtic Studies

‘Ó Corráin has long been one of the leading figures in early medieval Irish studies. His range is unparalleled … In this book, Ó Corráin brings to bear his ability to argue against the grain and question our assumptions. As reform of the Irish church became entangled with the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland and its aftermath, an event long given the status of a national Rubicon, this is a thought-provoking contribution ... This book provides much food for thought; it is learned, provocative and the fruit of one of the great scholars of early medieval Ireland. It has lessons to teach', Elva Johnston, Irish Times (July 2017).

'Donnchádh Ó Corráin is one of Ireland's greatest historians, and this latest offering is a typically forthright, readable, and erudite addition to his impressive oeuvre ... [in this] immensely rich study, Ó Corráin has brought his unique voice and vast knowledge to bear on a controversial and important period of Irish history ... Ó Corráin's boundless humanity breaks through on every page, making this book, in the image of its author, compelling, intelligent, opinionated, flawed, entertaining and full of passion', Elizabeth Boyle, Irish Theological Quarterly (2017).

‘A new book from Ireland’s foremost Early Medieval historian is a major event and this volume does not disappoint … It is jam-packed with new insights on Ireland in the twelfth century. Anyone with an interest in the period will need to carefully read this monograph … an impressively well-researched, referenced and written monograph … the general reader will enjoy the author’s command of the English language', Matthew Stout, Irish Economic and Social History (2017).

'Donnchadh Ó Corráin, emeritus professor of medieval history at University College Cork, takes us back to the twelfth century and the English invasion by Henry II. He argues that the reform precipitated the invasion. This is a radical, controversial reassessment ... [that] will provoke scholars into more research', David Cowan, The Catholic Herald (2017).

'[This book] is not offered – and should not be read – as simply another exercise in cautious scholarship about a familiar topic ... rather, it is a piece of advocacy; an indignant critique of a movement that for the author brought no good to Ireland. Professor Ó Corráin's fire is withering, his criticisms unsparing ... Among the topics explored with subtlety and insight are the nature of Irish society (lay and clerical) both before and during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and the intense engagement in the latter period of Irish churchmen – and some secular rulers – with the centres of the wider church reform movement in the monasteries of England, the German imperial court and Rome', Brendan Smith, Irish Literary Supplement (Autumn 2018).

'Donnchadh Ó Corráin’s final monograph is a tour de force creating the linkage between early Irish History and the high medieval world that is usually hard to see. He has rightly taken generations of Irish historians to task for writing history from the perspective of the winners. This book, with a main text running to only 122 pages, is eminently readable and an ideal size to set as key reading. When will we see his like again', Alex Woolf, Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies (2018).

'Donnchadh Ó Corráin offers in this monograph a fascinating assessment of medieval Irish ecclesiastical history in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Erudite and copiously footnoted ... this volume is densely packed and paints a vivid picture of ecclesiastical Ireland between, roughly, the tenth and twelfth centuries ... Ultimately, this is clearly an able piece of scholarship that significantly shifts our received understanding of the Gregorian reform agenda within the Irish context', K.S. Parker, Journal of Ecclesiastical History (2018).

'It is fitting that Donnchadh Ó Corráin's last publication should focus on the end of early medieval Ireland, the subject to which he made such an incomparable contribution as an outstanding researcher, inspirational teacher and mentor, and energetic facilitator of collaboration in the field ... it is epitomic of the work of Ó Corráin; a very convincing and highly original conclusion to an outstanding work of scholarship.', Henry Jefferies, Irish Historical Studies (2019). 

'what stands is a piece of perceptive historical writing from a scholar who had spent a lifetime considering the evidence, and who wrote with a distinctive and engaging voice.' Thomas O'oughlin, Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies, no.78 (winter 2019).