Plantagenet Ireland

Robin Frame

Hardback €49.50
Catalogue Price: €55.00
ISBN: 978-1-84682-794-5
January 2022. 384pp; ills

“Robin Frame brilliantly analyses the first two centuries of English rule in Ireland … He is the archetypal historian’s historian who has always eschewed the limelight’s glow ... While at TCD, Frame was inspired by his teacher, the late James Lydon to take up the study of later medieval Ireland and it – a large 200-year chunk of Irish history from the fateful year 1169 onwards – has remained the singular focus of his scholarship ever since. He has been quietly but spectacularly successful at doing so, including in the 15 scintillating essays assembled in this latest collection. All historians seek to make an original contribution but most don’t have a unitary overarching thesis which permeates their work and becomes their lasting contribution. Frame does. Of all the cliches that cling on barnacle-like to the hull of Irish history there is perhaps none as pervasive as that which has it that the “Normans” who arrived into Ireland in 1169 rapidly “became more Irish than the Irish themselves”. Scholars like Frame have long since pointed out to us that we cannot call these people “Normans”, many of whom had never set foot in Normandy. Rather, we must call people what they called themselves, and they called themselves the English … Frame is a subtle man and his is a subtle thesis. The English in medieval Ireland did not become more Irish than the Irish. Some may have become as Irish (Frame would perhaps argue, a small proportion), others somewhat Irish, in some aspects of their lives. These English born in Ireland might even appear Irish to the English born in England, and be treated shabbily as a result (as is the fate of colonists through the ages). But, Frame would argue, they did not stop thinking of themselves as English. And this latter point has big implications. When we assumed that the English settlers in medieval Ireland became more Irish than the Irish, we imagined a long, slow process beginning the moment they arrived. The history of the colony could therefore be conceived of as the story of a long, slow decline from pristine beginnings. It made for dull reading. Take away this notion, and supplant it with Frame’s idea of a people who, no matter how long their association with Ireland, retained a lingering – in some respects vibrant – sense of their Englishness, and talk of decline seems less apt. The story, if less straightforward, becomes more nuanced, variegated and real. These are the ideas Robin Frame brilliantly presents to us in this volume, hence essay titles and subtitles like “Being English in Medieval Ireland” or “Barriers to Acculturation on an ‘English’ Edge” or “Interactions of Government and Society in an Age of ‘Decline’”, and so much more besides. This is a book about a past that keeps pressing itself on our attentions because – in the age of Brexit and Putin – its themes endure. It is a book about an empire – the aggressive and expansionist Plantagenet empire of medieval England – doing what empires do, conquering, colonising and frequently misruling, and about what happens when two antagonistic nations try to inhabit one small piece of earth. What could possibly go wrong?". Seán Duffy, the Irish Times

"Recent years have witnessed a growing scholarly interest in locating the development of English power in medieval Ireland within a broader comparative framework of interpretation ... For the last 50 years Robin Frame has been a driving force in this area of scholarship. This collection of essays includes some of Frame's most important contributions to the field of late medieval Irish and British history ... Overall, this is an incredibly useful collection of essays. It makes many of Robin Frame's more notable contributions to the field more accessible; it is replete with tables and figures and includes several useful family trees, as well as several detailed maps. In sum, this book will appeal to anyone interested in late medieval Irish history." Simon Egan, History Ireland, May-June 2022 

“Like Robin Frame’s other books, Plantagenet Ireland is destined for a very long shelf life ... this book is an essential purchase – as one would expect, given its author – for anybody interested in Irish history from the invasion and the arrival of Henry II until the death of Richard II.” Tadhg O’Keeffe, Irish Arts Review, Autumn 2022