Map-Making, Landscapes and Memory

Map-Making, Landscapes and Memory : A Geography of Colonial and Early Modern Ireland, C.1530-1750

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This is the first engagement by a geographer in one book of this most formative and revolutionary period (c. 1550 - c. 1750) in Ireland's history. Using the twin concepts of 'colonialism' and 'early modernity', the book comprises a geographical analysis of the conquest and settlement of Ireland by the New English (and Scottish) and the consequences of this often violent and deep-seated intrusion upon the cultures and landscapes of pre-existing Irish societies. The book effectively isolates the emerging methodologies of the early modern British state in this process of colonial subjugation: the systematic use of surveillance techniques; the implementation of regional and island-wide mapping and inventories of strategic landscapes and resources; the development of bureaucracies and the administrative techniques of law and the market economy so as to obliterate regional expression of 'other' Gaelic or Gaelicised cultures and practices. Consequently, a wide range of documentary evidence, from the Elizabethan fiants, 16th and 17th century mss. maps, the '1641 Depositions', the Cromwellian Civil and Down Surveys, Petty's '1659 Census' to the 'State of Popery' materials of 1730s are available for mapping.
The book contains over 100 original colour and black and white maps, which point up the nuanced and regionally varied character of the engagement between local peoples and incomers. The use of so many maps thus highlights many hidden Irelands, often obscured in a strictly historical/narrative format. Uniquely, the book uses Irish language (as well as English) sources to illuminate Irish ways of understanding and using territories and resources, understandings and practices which were often undermined and eroded under New English rule. Overall, the book represents a novel rendition of Ireland's experiences in this crucial early modern period from the particular perspective of a historical geographer.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 760 pages
  • 168 x 245 x 45mm | 1,574g
  • Cork University Press
  • Cork, Ireland
  • English
  • maps (some col.)
  • 1859183972
  • 9781859183977
  • 819,337

Review quote

Mapping our colonial past Arnold Horner Geography Engaging with its theme along several broad fronts, this book focuses on what the author calls the forging of Ireland in the early modern era, taken as the years 1530-1750. During this period, the long-struggling English colony expanded to dominate the entire island, producing in its wake far-reaching material, social and ideological changes: "a revolutionary transformation in the nature of Irish societies and landscapes" and in the memories of Ireland's peoples. Here, particular attention is given to the regional and sub-regional expressions of those complex changes. The author, who next year celebrates three decades as professor of geography at University College Cork, applies the methods of the historical and cultural geographer. An outstanding feature is the inclusion of more than 100 maps, many of them of his own creation. Sixteen pages of colour plates allow the reproduction, in astounding clarity, of some of the most relevant manuscript maps compiled for English intelligence. The "Cotton" map of 1520s Ireland graphically illustrates just how limited was the appreciation of Ireland's geography at the court of King Henry VIII. The island appears as little more than a rectangle, with two-thirds of its space being occupied by distorted versions of the rivers Boyne, Liffey and Barrow. Except for a few family names, little is shown, because little is known, in the compressed area beyond this Pale core and its margins. A century and a half of initially tentative, but ultimately comprehensive, information-gathering transformed the map of Ireland. Land forfeitures and the subsequent plantations made detailed spatial intelligence a high priority. A succession of cartographers took down the details of a largely Gaelic, and frequently hostile, Ireland that had hitherto been hidden to English eyes. The acme of this work came with the great 1650s surveys organised by William Petty. "Ireland's greatest map-maker" put 1,000 men in the field to make the famous Down Survey of parish and barony maps across 29 counties. He was also intimately involved with the near- contemporary Civil Survey and the so-called "census" or poll-tax surveys of 1659-1660. Prof Smyth organises his work in four sections. First, he seeks to make the documents of the conquest "speak" to reveal the hidden Irelands of the 16th and 17th centuries: the territorial and social structures of Gaelic Ireland, the wooded lands that were being denuded, the lands of Munster and the north that were being "planted", and the unstable chemistry of a land where the dispossessed remained alongside the new settlers. Central to this section is the review of 1641-1654, a period of far-reaching transformation. The "1641 depositions" are appraised, and a clear account of the implementation of Petty's great surveys leads to a perspective on the changing geography of 1650s Ireland. Particular attention is given to the regional and local implications of the 1659 "census". Alongside the dominance of the new settler population over much of the north, Smyth can identify more resistant areas of much greater Old English and Gaelic continuity, notably in parts of the south and east. LATER SECTIONS ELABORATE these themes. Three regional case studies explore what Smyth calls the early anglicised county of Dublin, the hybrid, if feudalised, county of Kilkenny, and Co Tipperary, where the Gaelic north-west contrasted with the Old English-dominated south-east. A section on the territorial and social implications of the transformations follows and includes an exploration of Ireland in the early 18th century, by which time the Catholic Church was, particularly in southern parts of the island, showing a remarkable resilience. Lastly, a short and stimulating section seeks to place Ireland in the wider context of an expanding Atlantic world, highlighting parallels between the early English colonisation in North America and the settlement of Ireland. This book tackles grand themes on a grand scale. In places, readers may find the richly detailed discussion daunting. Some will find their knowledge of Irish geography sorely tested, and some may wish there had been less assertion and greater selectivity in the identification of issues and areas that the author deems to be "critical", "crucial", "significant", "important" or "key". But the scope of this study is huge. William Smyth's great achievement is to show that so much about the geography of early modern Ireland can be recovered and that so many topics can be mapped in considerable detail. His innovative countrywide maps range into such topics as the ethnic balance in populations, family name distributions, the development of territorial structures, and the balance between Mass rocks and Mass-houses for Catholic worship. These maps are an eye-opener to the embedded nature of Irish regional variations, challenging us to treat history with a respect for geography. Arnold Horner lectures in geography at University College Dublin. His introduction to William Larkin's Map of King's County 1809 will be published by Wordwell later this year
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About William J. Smyth

William J Smyth is Professor of Geography University College Cork
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