Society, economy and environment, c. 1300–1650

Tower houses are the ubiquitous building of pre-modern Ireland. A type of castle, the tower house was constructed c.1350–1650, and extant examples number in the thousands. This book examines the social role of the tower house in late medieval and early modern Ireland. It uses a multidisciplinary methodology to uncover the lived experience of a wide range of people. This enables exploration of the castle’s context, including how it was used as a social tool and in environmental exploitation for economic gain. By challenging traditional interpretations of the Middle Ages we find new evidence for the agency of previously overlooked individuals, and thus a new insight into the transition from medieval to modern. Each chapter in the book builds on the one preceding, to echo the movement of trade good from environmental exploitation to entry into global economic networks, keeping focus on the role of the tower house in facilitating each step. By progressively broadening the scope, the conclusion is reached that the tower house can be used as a medium for analysing the impact of global trends at the local level. It accomplishes this lofty goal by combining archival evidence with archaeological fieldwork and on-site survey to present a fresh perspective on one of the best-known manifestations of Irish archaeology.

-Normans with the intention of funnelling trade through them from the rest of the territory they controlled (O’Brien, 1988 ). The Irish port towns thrived financially in the tower house era, in spite of difficult political circumstances. Indeed, Ireland is described as having been in ‘substantial economic recovery’ at this time ( ibid .: 25). The influx of money into Ireland's urban places and the control of this activity by a small and interrelated mercantile community explains, at least in part, a late medieval building boom that included tower houses. It also included

in The Irish tower house

This chapter offers a brief summary of Ireland's trading activity, and relates this to the built environment, explaining how tower houses facilitated the contact of their occupants with the rest of the medieval world. In this book we have followed the role of the tower house step by step as our perspective has broadened from the site specific, to the local, to the regional and, now, to the wider world. Throughout the tower house construction period, international trade was the main means through which people communicated with the world

in The Irish tower house
Tower houses and waterways

Tower houses created and sustained diverse economic networks. In particular, this was accomplished through siting on communication routes, especially water based, and interaction with transport networks. A significant proportion of transport and communication occurred via water in later medieval Ireland. Not only was this cheaper than land-based transport, but it helped navigate politically unstable territories, since protection and effort could focus on specific places. It was also a response to Ireland's topography, which in many

in The Irish tower house
The tower house complex and rural settlement

landscape study has a longer history in England than in Ireland. This is in no small part because extensive investigation of the immediate landscape context of tower houses has been hampered by a lack of material evidence. However, there is a significant body of work on different facets of Ireland's rural landscape, including study of medieval rural settlement. O’Conor ( 1998 ) has noted that since we see castles today as isolated in the landscape, we tend to lack the imagination to envisage how this was not always the case. Tower houses, too, have a tendency to be

in The Irish tower house
Abstract only

Medieval Ireland is increasingly viewed within its wider social context, including its experiences framed as a pan-European phenomenon, or even in the context of a globalised Middle Ages. This book seeks to push such developments even further, to argue that tower houses are a remarkably effective means of understanding the socio-economic actions of the majority of people within late medieval Ireland. In part, this is due to who built tower houses – a type of castle dating from the later Middle Ages and opening decades of the early modern

in The Irish tower house
Lifeblood of the tower house

Having identified the types of buildings and settlement around the tower house walls, our attention now turns to the occupations of the individuals living in and around tower houses. Agriculture was the basis for all economic activity in Ireland during the tower house era. It produced food for consumption but also surplus, which readily found demand on both national and international markets. How these goods made it to sale, and the unique position of the tower house in facilitating this, is the subject of chapter 4 . This chapter

in The Irish tower house
Environment and economy

Having explored the land-based activities occurring in the vicinity of tower houses, what of the water? After all, Ireland is an island and is penetrated by countless rivers, many of them navigable at least to small boats, and lakes dot the interior. Water is therefore intrinsic to any study of historical landscape exploitation. Substantial numbers of tower houses stand within half a kilometre of water, whether this be sea, lake or river. This chapter examines the functions served by water at tower house sites, before the next chapter

in The Irish tower house

Introduction This strategy is guided by principled realism. It is realist because it acknowledges the central role of power in international politics, affirms that sovereign states are the best hope for a peaceful world, and clearly defines our national interests… We are also realistic and understand that the American way of life cannot be imposed upon others, nor is it the inevitable culmination of progress . The White House, ‘National Security Strategy of the United States of America’ ( The White House, 2017 ) The White House published the

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs

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 Privy Council conceived of the Munster Plantation as a solution to the problem of

in Castles and Colonists