The James Ford Lectures : Empires
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 Six: Empires
Speaker: Professor Jane Ohlmeyer (Trinity College Dublin)
The final lecture focuses on the impact of empire on Ireland and how empire has been remembered. How did empire shape the lives of those living in Ireland, and how is Ireland’s engagement with and experience of empire in the early modern period remembered (or not) and represented/mis-represented? Today in Ireland some celebrate and some excoriate connections with the British Empire. Others have either conveniently forgotten or are simply ignorant of Ireland’s imperial past. However the decade of commemorations (2012-2022) in Ireland and campaigns around ‘Black Lives Matters’, Brexit, and ‘Rhodes must fall’ have kindled a greater awareness of the importance of revisiting the history of empire, if only to better understand its legacy and how it has shaped the present.