Jane OhlmeyerJan 20, 2024
Ireland, Imperialism, and the Early Modern World
Oxford University Press 2023
Empire and imperial frameworks, policies, practices, and cultures have shaped the history of the world for the last two millennia. It is nation states that are the blip on the historical horizon. Making Empire: Ireland, Imperialism, and the Early Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2023) by Dr. Jane Ohlmeyer re-examines empire as process—and Ireland's role in it—through the lens of early modernity. It covers the two hundred years, between the mid-sixteenth century and the mid-eighteenth century, that equate roughly to the timespan of the First English Empire (c.1550-c.1770s).
Ireland was England's oldest colony. How then did the English empire actually function in early modern Ireland and how did this change over time? What did access to European empires mean for people living in Ireland? This book answers these questions by interrogating four interconnected themes. First, that Ireland formed an integral part of the English imperial system, Second, that the Irish operated as agents of empire(s). Third, Ireland served as laboratory in and for the English empire. Finally, it examines the impact that empire(s) had on people living in early modern Ireland.
What becomes clear is that colonisation was not a single occurrence but an iterative and durable process that impacted different parts of Ireland at different times and in different ways. That imperialism was about the exercise of power, violence, coercion and expropriation. Strategies about how best to turn conquest into profit, to mobilise and control Ireland's natural resources, especially land and labour, varied but the reality of everyday life did not change and provoked a wide variety of responses ranging from acceptance and assimilation to resistance.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose forthcoming book focuses on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.