Law, poetry and medicine: the literate professionals in autonomous Gaelic Ireland, c.1250 - c.1630

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Sheehan, Máire Áine
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University College Cork
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This thesis is about a class of literate professionals that served as hereditary brehons, poets and doctors to the Gaelic aristocracy over a period from c.1250-c.1630. My investigation into these families brings together evidence from Gaelic and English sources to highlight the work these families did for their patrons, their status in society and their subsequent fall in the seventeenth century. Such a broad canvas allows us to observe the vibrancy of Gaelic literary culture as these families adapted to the changing political landscape to absorb new Anglo-Norman patrons and assimilated English and Continental ideas while maintaining their distinctive identity. I want to look beyond the ideology espoused by these families to look at the practical choices members of these families made to maintain their status and relevance in a changing social context. To do this I have chosen to focus on each of the three professions in individual chapters to highlight the continuities and changes within the professions and ultimately by comparing the three groups to gauge the success or failure of these professional families to adapt to the encroachment of the New English and the ultimate collapse of the Gaelic world. This thesis takes a holistic approach to these families by including branches of these families not engaged in the hereditary profession. It seeks to provide a broader picture of Gaelic society below the level of the aristocracy by looking at the geographic distribution of these families, their proximity to centres of power, and to land and sea routes that can indicate their involvement in alternative economic activities.
Gaelic Ireland , Poets , Brehons , Gaelic medical families
Sheehan, M. A. 2016. Law, poetry and medicine: the literate professionals in autonomous Gaelic Ireland, c.1250 - c.1630. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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