In Ireland in the Virginian Sea: Colonialism in the British Atlantic (University of North Carolina Press, 2017), Audrey Horning revisits the fraught connections between Ireland and colonial Virginia. Both modern scholars and early modern colonialists themselves viewed English incursions into Ireland and North America as intimately related. But the precise nature of this relationship has been a matter of contention. In the standard narrative, British efforts to establish plantations in Ireland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries prefigured the colonization of Virginia. But Horning shows that such causal connections break down upon closer scrutiny.
Ireland in the Virginian Sea deftly brings the tools of archaeology and historical scholarship to bear on British colonialism across the Atlantic. Horning shows that, while colonial ventures in both Ireland and Virginia were personally and financially entangled, the two responded to their unique cultural and geographical contexts. Attempts to impose unidirectional causality dissolve under the burden of Horning’s formidable body of textual and archaeological evidence. What emerges instead is a much more sensitive narrative that accounts for, rather than suppresses, the chorus of voices on either side of the British Atlantic.
Jonathan Megerian is a doctoral candidate in history at Johns Hopkins University. He works on late medieval and Renaissance England. His dissertation explores the role of historiography in the formation of imperial ideologies in Renaissance England.