The James Ford Lectures : Making History
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 One: Making History
Speaker: Professor Jane Ohlmeyer (Trinity College Dublin)
The play Making History by Brian Friel, which was first performed in 1988, is set on the eve of the Nine Years War (1594-1603), of the completion of the English conquest of Ireland, and of the onset of a period of intense anglicisation, colonisation and commercialisation. The play is used to explore these themes, which reoccur across the lecture series, along with three chronological contexts pertinent to any discussion of empire and Ireland. First, the turn of the seventeenth century, the transitionary moment in which the play was set; second, the late 1980s, when at the height of the Troubles the play was performed first in Derry and then across Ireland; and, finally, the context of today, the early 2020s, as we continue to wrestle with the legacy of empire in Ireland, in the UK, and around the world.