The James Ford Lectures : Agents of Empire
Ireland, empire, and the early modern world
The illustration depicts Hibernia as both shepherdess and huntress, with bees – the symbols of industry and colonization – circling her head and Irish wolfhounds at her side. This, and the accompanying contrasts between the wild forests and the cultivated arable and pastoral lands represents many of the themes that are explored in these lectures which re-examine Ireland’s role in empire through the lens of early modernity.
The focus will be on Ireland and the First English Empire (c.1550-1770s) but it is critical, where possible and appropriate, to look to other European and global empires for meaningful comparisons and contrasts. These lectures draw on a wide range of written, visual, and archaeological sources while works of poetry, prose, and performance help to recapture emotions and more nuanced senses of identity.
Four interconnected themes underpin the series. First, as England’s first colony, Ireland formed an integral part of the English imperial system. Second, as well as being colonised the Irish operated as active colonists in the English and other European empires. Third, the extent to which Ireland served as laboratory for empire in India and the Atlantic world is analysed. Finally, the impact empire had on the material and mental worlds of people living in early modern Ireland is examined alongside how these years are remembered today.
Lecture Four: Agents of Empire
Speaker: Professor Jane Ohlmeyer (Trinity College Dublin)
This lecture looks at the Irish, Catholic and Protestant, as agents of empire who played active roles in European global expansionism. By 1660 Irish people, mostly men, were to be found in the French Caribbean, the Portuguese and later Dutch Amazon, Spanish Mexico, and the English colonies in the Atlantic and Asia where they joined colonial settlements, served as soldiers and clergymen, forged commercial networks as they traded calicos, spices, tobacco, sugar, and slaves. How did these encounters and experiences shape their identity and how did others perceive and represent them? Equally, how might this hibernocentric perspective challenge, complicate and even change received understandings of empire, especially the English one?