William Shakespeare, The Tempest , 1611
Proto-colonial archaeology of Elizabethan Ireland, particularly in the Irish Republic, has only recently begun, and caution warns against advancing firm conclusions at this stage. Nevertheless, some general observations are justified concerning the twelve-year Elizabethan colonial settlement, or ‘planting’, of Munster, because even limited fieldwork can significantly correct research all too dependent upon insufficient documentation. Elizabethan Ireland was certainly not the ‘brave new world’ that
around 1588 to October 1598, shortly before his death in January 1599. 2 Granted a 3000 acre estate by Elizabeth, Spenser repaired and improved the castle, a small medieval enclosure on a hilltop overlooking a marshy lake and bog. Its fate was to be burned and abandoned, then later used as a quarry for building stone. Archaeological fieldwork directed by the writer took place at Kilcolman from 1993 to 1996 to determine what evidence still existed for Spenser’s occupancy of the castle. The project was sponsored by Mercer University and the Earthwatch Foundation, with
Rolf Loeber, as well as growing numbers of archaeologists. 6
In the 1950s, the American colonies supplied archaeological evidence from such sites as Jamestown and Roanoke to supplement poorly documented histories. In the ensuing generation, what is called ‘historical archaeology’ in America and ‘post-medieval archaeology’ in Europe matured as a discipline, as the experience of hundreds of sites produced a broader and more reliable set of data for the material culture of the early modern British Isles and its overseas offshoots. This in turn
political and social changes in the last generations of Irish autonomy. It analyzes architectural types and techniques associated with the late Elizabethan colonization of Munster, which may be applicable to early modern Ireland in general. The chapter concludes with a study of the tower-house, which was used widely by both Irish aristocracy and English colonial landowners. A key period in Irish history, the reign of Elizabeth began with a medieval, semi-feudal society and ended with a central state authority and displaced populations.
The marvelous Priviledge of Brytish Impire … wealth and strength, foreign love and feare, and triumphant fame, the whole world over.
John Dee, 1577 1
This chapter examines the role of archaeology in the study of the Elizabethan colonization of southern Ireland. Initial foreign settlement by early modern European states, or by their authorized commercial organizations, are usefully characterized as the ‘proto-colonial phase’ of the epoch of modern colonial imperialism. For European
Alas all the Castles I have, are built with ayre, thou know’st.
Ben Jonson, 1605 1
Ben Jonson’s comedy Eastward Ho reveals how the early seventeenth century still valued castles as important social possessions. The claim by an impecunious Sir Petronell to have a castle and estate, more than his title, attracted the social-climbing daughter of the rich goldsmith Touchstone. For purely military purposes, castles had become obsolete with successful French siege artillery in Normandy and
fabric’ of the city into the expansive metropolis of the eighteenth century.3 Further clarifying our understanding of Ireland’s landscape in the
past is work by the Irish Post-Medieval Archaeology Group, which shares
essential information on archaeological excavations in Ireland and literature relating to post-medieval archaeology, also publishing volumes that
correspond with the Group’s conference proceedings.4 Never before have
scholars had such a lively and complete impression of how early modern
Ireland may have looked.
Cultural and literary historians are
Raleigh’s ‘Ocean to Scinthia’, Spenser’s ‘Colin Clouts Come Home Againe’ and The Faerie Queene IV.vii in colonial context
Raleigh’s estates in east Cork (Colin Rynne, ‘The SocialArchaeology of
‘Ocean to Scinthia’, ‘strange’ colonial Ireland, like the poem’s ‘new worlds’,
does not function merely as an anecdotal backdrop but rather as a fundamental part of its imperial, Petrarchan conceit: like the Queen herself, the
country fuels the driving erotic energy of Raleigh’s despairing art.
V. Love, war and riches
Of the imperial conceits in ‘Ocean’, some refer explicitly to ‘new worlds’
and colonial opportunity there. But
examine how he
compiled such an impressive collection of manuscripts. It will expose the
existence of a wide scholarly network, thereby demonstrating the extent of
social and cultural interaction between ethnic and religious communities.
Researching Dublin’s history
It is no accident that the authors of two notable histories of Dublin –
one in manuscript form, the other published – were related to Ware, the
second of which was posthumously published as The history and antiquities of the city of Dublin from the earliest accounts (1766). Written by
Walter Harris, who was
authorities in Durham and Yorkshire.6 This particular
treason raises a number of questions about the political, religious and
social experience of the Restoration as well as its acceptance at the local
level in the aftermath of the turbulent 1650s. It also raises questions about
whether inherited notions of plotting and the character of the informer at
the time may have influenced the reception of this particular plot.
Understanding the nature and, indeed, the very idea of political plotting as an early modern phenomenon in the texts of the early Restoration