Let me start out by saying, I didn’t expect the Wikipedia page on Ireland to be so long! I knew Ireland had a long and storied past with Britain, but man, it’s much more than I ever expected! So, without much more todo lets get into this look at Ireland.
As many of you may know that while Ireland is one continuous island, it is not one nation. That’s because Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland which is a part of the U.K. So, just to provide some clarification, this post is not about either nation in particular. This is instead about the island of Ireland whose Wikipedia page I gathered this information from.
Let’s take it back, I’m talking waaay back. Like 10,000 B.C back! Did you know, there has actually been evidence of human habitation on Ireland since that time? However, Ireland wasn’t the island we know and love in prehistoric times. It was actually connected to mainland Britain around 16,000 B.C, which in turn was connected to mainland Europe! It was predominantly covered in ice around that time, but as the ice melted and sea levels rose the North Channel, Irish Sea, and Saint George’s Channel flooded to their present day levels.
Well whether by boat or by land settlers managed to be inhabiting the island by the time 10,500 B.C rolled around, leaving behind some cut bear bones as evidence. The evidence suggests it took another two thousand years or so until any real settlements began to form. These communities spent the next four thousand years or so living as hunter gathers until another migration of settlers brought cultivating practices to the island. This led to some of the oldest field systems in the world being developed here!
Let’s bring it forward a little bit, to what I found to be the coolest historical fact coming out of Ireland. Starting in the seventh century Ireland began to form under one king. This wasn’t a king in the traditional sense, forged through war or lineage. Instead the various kings gathered together to elect one high king. I of course found this so interesting because of my love for the game Skyrim which featured a similar system. Beyond that, the island did feature a singular rule of law that was overseen by a special cast.
For most of its history following the creation of the high king Ireland was periodically invaded. I say periodically because it was invaded a lot. Like a lot a lot. A few hundred years of viking invasions helped to establish many of the larger coastal cities though! Around the late 12th century the invasions took a different turn as the English monarchy sought to establish rule over Ireland. What followed were a series of long conflicts as the English sought to subjugate Ireland. Eventually the English king at the time, Henry the second, arrived himself in Ireland. From there the various Irish king quickly swore fealty thus ending the war and bringing Ireland into the English fold. This would not last forever however, and over the next three hundred years Ireland slowly recreated its cultural independence and identity.
This eventually led to the English wishing to re-exert power over the Irish, which caused a bloody war in the 17th century. This led to an estimated half a million Irish casualties during the course of the war. However, these losses pale in comparison to the loss of life experienced during two separate famines that followed. The first in 1740 accounted for the deaths of one eighth of the total population. The next known as the great famine, which began in 1845, led to the death of one million Irish and the emigration of some two million to places like the United States and Canada.
Into the modern era, Ireland has experienced great strife in regards to its independence. Even after gaining independence in 1921, it still had to deal with disagreements at home regarding treaties and governance. Today, much of this has settled thanks to continued work in improving relations between the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom. And now the Republic of Ireland enjoys a status as one of the richest and most developed countries on Earth!
What a colorful past, full of more conflict than I had ever imagined. I highly recommend reading up on some Irish history, especially anything after 1100 A.D. It reads like a medieval novel of political strife and war.
That’s all you’re getting out of Viggy this time! I’ll be back next week with another Hello to segment!