Tudor ‘reform’ treatises and government policy in sixteenth century Ireland

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Heffernan, David
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University College Cork
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During the sixteenth century hundreds of treatises, position papers and memoranda were composed on the political state of Ireland and how best to ‘reform’, ‘conquer’ or otherwise incorporate that island into the wider Tudor kingdom. These ‘reform’ treatises attempted to identify and analyse the prevailing political, social, cultural and economic problems found in the Irish polity before positing how government policy could be altered to ameliorate these same problems. Written by a broad array of New English, Old English and Gaelic Irish authors, often serving within Irish officialdom, the military, or the Church of Ireland, these papers were generally circulated amongst senior ministers and political figures throughout the Tudor dominions. As such they were written with the express purpose of influencing the direction of government policy for Ireland. Collectively these documents are one of the most significant body of sources, not just for the study of government activity in the second Tudor kingdom, but indeed for the broader history of sixteenth century Ireland. This thesis offers the first systematic study of these texts. It does so by exploring the content of the hundreds of such works and the ‘reform’ treatise as a type of text, while the interrelationship of these documents with government policy in Tudor Ireland, and their effect thereon, is also explored. In so doing it charts the developments from origin to implementation of the principal strategies employed by Tudor Englishmen to enforce English control over the whole of Ireland. Finally, it clearly demonstrates that the ‘reform’ treatises were both central to government activity in sixteenth century Ireland and to the historical developments which occurred in that time and place.
Tudor Ireland , Government policy in sixteenth century Ireland , Political discourse , Reform treatise , Early modern Ireland
Heffernan, D., 2012. Tudor ‘reform’ treatises and government policy in sixteenth century Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.