Promoting 'English Civility' in Tudor Ireland: ideology and the rhetoric of difference
Lessing, Carla Ellen
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This study deals with the concept of ‘English civility’ as the ideology behind Tudor endeavours in sixteenth-century Ireland. While this phenomenon found frequent mention by scholars on Tudor Ireland in the form of an expression of English cultural, social and political superiority over the Gaelic Irish community, a thorough investigation of the concept and its connection to the so-called Rhetoric of Difference has not yet been produced. This conceptual underdevelopment is the gap in knowledge that this thesis attempts to fill. It investigates the development, employment and consequences of the concept of English civility in Tudor Ireland in four steps. First, a case specific working definition of English civility in Tudor Ireland based on a comparison of general English ideas of civility with perceptions of Gaelic Irish barbarism is produced. This is followed by an overview of three modes of legitimising English superiority (i.e. Historical Evidence, Divine Right, Delegitimisation of Gaelic Irish claims) which had a direct or indirect influence on the interpretation of English civility in general and its implementation in Ireland in specific. Subsequently, the materialisation of the concept of English civility through processes of Tudor re-organisations of the Irish countryside and the implementation of English state building policies is examined. Lastly, the problem of the so-called degeneracy of those English born in Ireland is discussed as a direct result of the ideological exploitation of English civility. While the general concept of civility was influential throughout Europe, its application in Ireland tends to be perceived as particularly radical by modern scholarship. This project aims to remedy this view by putting it into a comparative historical perspective with the relationship between early modern Sweden and Finland.
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