Volume I (600-1550) – 648 pages – Brendan Smith
Volume II (1550-1730) –787 pages – Jane Ohlmeyer
Volume III (1730-1880) – 851 pages – James Kelly
Volume IV (1880 – 2016) – 969 pages – Thomas Bartlett

Publisher: Cambridge University Press – 3,255 total pages

Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

This is truly a monumental undertaking by four accomplished editors named above and 107 authors (including the editors) who wrote the 97 chapters within 18 Parts of this four-volume book of extensive and intensive coverage of the more than 14 centuries (1,416 years) of the history of Ireland from the year 600 up to 2016. The four volumes were all published in 2018.

This book examines and discusses the artistic, cultural, economic, gender, linguistic, military, political, social and other aspects of Irish history. Each of the four volumes takes a detailed look at the development of Ireland and its people within its period of coverage. We present to you below a broad overview of the contents of each volume by listing their Parts:

Volume I (600-1550)

  1. Part I. Christianity, Invasion and Conquest: 600 – 1200
  2. Part II. English Lordship in Ireland: 1200 – 1550
  3. Part III. Religion, Economy and Culture: 1000 – 1550

Volume II (1550 – 1730)

  1. Part I. Politics
  2. Part II. Religion and War
  3. Part III. Society
  4. Part IV. Culture
  5. Part V. Economy and Environment

Volume III (1730-1880)

  1. Part I. Politics
  2. Part II. Economy and Demography
  3. Part III. Religion
  4. Part IV. Shaping Society
  5. Part V. The Irish Abroad
  6. Part VI. The Great Famine and Its Aftermath

Volume IV (1880 – 2016)

  1. Part I. Ireland 1880-1923
  2. Part II. War, Revolution and the two Irelands: 1914 -1945
  3. Part III. Contemporary Ireland: 1945 – 2016
  4. Part IV. The Long View: Ireland 1880 – 2016

Volume I covers nearly a millennium of Irish history, with these 19 chapters:

  1. Communities and the Landscape
  2. Learning, Imagination and Belief
  3. Art and Society
  4. The Scandinavian Intervention
  5. Perc3eption and Reality: Ireland c. 980-1229
  6. Conquest and Conquerors
  7. Angevin Ireland
  8. The Height of English Power: 1250-1320
  9. Disaster and Opportunity
  10. The Political Recovery of Gaelic Ireland
  11. Community and Change: 1470-1550
  12. Late Medieval Ireland in a Wider World
  13. The Church: 1050-1460
  14. The Economy
  15. Gaelic Culture and Society
  16. The Structure of Politics in Theory and Practice
  17. Material Culture
  18. The Onset of Religious Reform: 1460-1550
  19. Concepts, Divisions, and Unities: Perspectives from the Later Middle Ages

Volume II covers 180 years of Irish history, with these 25 chapters:

  1. Politics, Policy, and Power: 1550-1603
  2. Political Change and Social Transformation
  3. Politics: 1641-1660
  4. Restoration Politics: 1660-1691
  5. Politics: 1692-1730
  6. The Emergence of a Protestant Society: 1691-2730
  7. Counter Reformation: The Catholic Church: 1550-1641
  8. Protestant Reformations: 1550-1641
  9. Establishing a Confessional Ireland: 1641-1691
  10. Wars of Religion: 1641-1691
  11. Society: 1550-1700
  12. Men, Women, Children and the Family: 1550-1730
  13. Domestic Materiality in Ireland: 1550-1730
  14. Irish Art and Architecture
  15. Ireland in the Atlantic World: Migration and Cultural Transfer:
  16. Language, Print and Literature in Irish: 1550-1630
  17. Language, Print and Literature in Irish: 1630-1730
  18. The Emergence of English Print and Literature; 1630-1730
  19. A World of Honour:  Aristocratic Mentalite
  20. Irish Political Thought and Intellectual History: 1550-1730
  21. Economic Life: 1550-1730
  22. Plantations: 1550-1641
  23. The Down Survey and the Cromwellian Land Settlement
  24. Environmental History of Ireland: 1550-1730
  25. Interpreting the History of Early Modern Ireland from the 16tth Century to the Present

Volume III covers 150 years of Irish history, with these 27 chapters:

  1. Irish Jacobitism:   1691-1790
  2. The Politics of Protestant Ascendancy: 1730-1790
  3. Ireland during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars: 1790-1815
  4. The Impact of O’Connell: 1815-1850
  5. Popular Politics: 1815-1845
  6. Society and Economy in the Long Eighteenth Century
  7. The Irish Economy, 2825-2880: Agricultural Transition, the Communications Revolution, and the Limits of Industrialization
  8. Population ad Emigration: 1730-184
  9. Women, Men and the Family: 1730-1880
  10. The Catholic Church and Catholics in an Era of Sanctions: and Restraints: 1690-1790
  11. The Re-emerging of Catholicism: 1790-1880
  12. Protestant Dissenters: 1690-1800
  13. Protestantism in the Nineteenth Century: Revival and Crisis
  14. Language and Literacy in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
  15. Futures Past: Enlightenment and Antiquarianism in the Eighteenth Century
  16. Art and Architecture in the Long Eighteenth Century
  17. Civil Society: 1700-1850
  18. Sport and Recreation in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
  19. Bourgeois Ireland, or on the benefits of Keeping One’s Hands Clean
  20. The Growth of the State in the Nineteenth Century
  21. The Irish in Europe in the Eighteenth Century
  22. ‘Irish’ Migration to America in the Eighteenth Century? Or the Strange Case for the ‘Scots/Irish’
  23. Ireland ant the Empire in the Nineteenth Century
  24. The Great Famine: 1845-1850
  25. Irish Emigration: 1845-1900
  26. Post-Famine Politics: 1850-1879
  27. Afterword

Volume IV covers 136 years of Irish history from 1880 to 2016 with these 26 chapters:

  1. Radical Nationalisms: 1882-1916
  2. Home Rulers at Westminster: 1880-1914
  3. The Origins, Culture, and Politics of Irish Unionism: 1880-1916
  4. Irish Land Questions: 1879-1923
  5. Social Conditions in Ireland: 1880-1914
  6. The Irish Literary Revival
  7. The Culture War: The Gaelic League and the Irish Ireland
  8. Ireland and the Great War
  9. Revolution: 1916-1923
  10. Politics, Economy, Society, Northern Ireland: 1930-1939
  11. Politics, Economy and Society in the Irish Free State: 1922-1939
  12. Neutrality and Belligerence: Ireland: 1939-1945u
  13. Stability, Crisis and Change in Post-war Ireland: 1945-1973
  14. Ireland Transformed? Modernization, Secularization and Conservatism Since 1973
  15. War and Peace in Northern Ireland: 1965-2016
  16. The Irish Economy: 1973-2016
  17. Migration Since 1914
  18. Broadcasting on the Island of Ireland: 1916-2016
  19. Popular Culture in Ireland: 1880-2016
  20. Irish Foreign Policy: 1919-1973
  21. The Family in Ireland: 1880-2015
  22. International Space and the Geography of Confinement in Ireland: 1750-2000
  23. A Short History of Irish Memory in the Long Twentieth Century
  24. Catholicism in Ireland, 1880-2015: Rise, Ascendancy and Retreat
  25. Art and Architecture in Ireland: 1880-2016
  26. Endword: Ireland Looking Outwards: 1880-2016

Impressive scholarship is evident in these volumes edited and written by experts in their respective fields in Irish society. A reading below of the four editors’ experience in the authorship of various books, research efforts, and teaching experience demonstrates their expertise and capabilities.



Brendan Smith is a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin and was Rooney Family Newman Scholar at University College Dublin before joining the University of Bristol in 1993. He was appointed Professor of Medieval History at Bristol in 2014. He is the author and editor of numerous books on medieval Ireland, including several collections of historical documents. His research focuses on the English colonists established in Ireland in the decades around 1200, and the relationship of their descendants with England and with their Irish neighbors. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Jane Ohlmeyer is Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Modern History at Trinity College, Dublin and the Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub, Trinity’s research institute for advanced study in the Arts and Humanities. Since September 2015 she has also served as Chair of the Irish Research Council. She has also taught at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Yale University, Connecticut, and the University of Aberdeen and has held several visiting international appointments. A passionate teacher and an internationally established scholar of early modern Irish history, Professor Ohlmeyer is the author/editor of eleven books, including Making Ireland English: The Aristocracy in Seventeenth-Century Ireland (2012). She is currently working on a study of Colonial Ireland, Colonial India and preparing an edition of Clarendon’s Shorte View of Ireland. She is a member of the Royal Irish Academy.

James Kelly is Professor of History at Dublin City University. He is a member of the Irish Manuscripts Commission, and President of the Irish Economic and Social History Society. His publications include That Damn’d Thing Called Honour: Duelling in Ireland, 1750-1860 (1995); Henry Flood: Patriots and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Ireland (1998); Poynings’ Law and the Making of Law in Ireland, 1660-1800 (2007); and, as editor (with Martyn Powell), Clubs and Societies in Eighteenth-Century Ireland (2010); (with Mary Ann Lyons), The Proclamations of Ireland, 1660-1820 (5 volumes, 2014), and (with Elizabeth FitzPatrick) of Food and Drink in Ireland (2016). His book Sport in Ireland, 1600-1840 (2014) won the special commendation prize offered by the National University of Ireland in 2016.

Thomas Bartlett was born in Belfast, and is a graduate of Queen’s University Belfast. He has held positions at the National University of Ireland, Galway, then as Professor of Modern Irish history at University College Dublin, and most recently as Professor of Irish history at the University of Aberdeen, until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and his previous publications include Ireland: A History (Cambridge, 2010).