St. Thomas University
Department of History

History 2153
Early Irish History

Instructor: Dr David A. Wilson
Office: EC 20/ MWF 1:30-2:30


This course will consist of the history of early modern Ireland from the prehistoric period to the rebellions of 1798. Early topics will include the character of ancient Celtic society, the peculiar nature of Irish Christianity, the impact of the Viking and Norman invasions and, the introduction of English customs to Ireland. Later topics will cover the various Irish rebellions, the settling of the plantations, the imposition of the penal laws, and the early part of the struggle for Irish self-determination.

This course will involve a variety of activities. Lectures will form a substantial proportion of the mix, closely followed by class discussion and as many suitable videos as are available. There will be a moderate writing requirement. In keeping with the definition of 2000-level in the university calendar, this course will entail students learning basic skills of conducting historical research and constructing written historical argument.


R.F. Foster, Editor, The Oxford Illustrated History of Ireland, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. (Required)

Ann Raimes, either Keys for Writers, Canadian Edition, or Pocket Keys for Writers, (Recommended)


In general, to gain an appreciation of the richness and variety of early Irish history and how that history has contributed in some measure to the present-day state of Ireland. As historians Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry have noted, "there have been difficulties ever since the Normans first went to Ireland in the 1160s-1170s." These "difficulties" currently appear as news items on a regular basis.

Specific Goals:


Based on the premise that participants are self-directed learners, responsibilities for the course will be shared.

My responsibilities are to help you to remain focussed on course topics and to guide you toward resources and materials which will facilitate your learning I will facilitate the class agenda and class discussions to ensure that all participants have the opportunity to be heard and understood. I will maintain a class environment wherein all participants are able to share in discussion and proceed toward an understanding of the major issues in early Irish history.

Your responsibilities are to come to class prepared for discussions and the class activities You are expected to work independently, read and discuss assigned material, collaborate with other participants, and be accountable during class sessions and in group work.

Course Requirements:

Grading scheme:

At the end of the course a letter grade will be awarded. The numerical equivalents to each letter grade are found below. For GPA equivalents consult the university calendar.

A+ 95-100 B+ 80-84 C+ 65-69 D 50-54
A 90-94 B 75-79 C 60-64 F less than 60
A- 85-89 B- 70-74 C- 55-59    

Book review:

The book review, due on 29 September, should be between 500 and 800 words. It should be double-spaced, does not require footnotes or endnotes, but should utilize direct references from the work to reinforce your evaluation. It must address the author's purpose, how well this purpose was achieved and the quality and layout of technical details such as indices and sources. This exercise allows me the opportunity to assess your writing style and approach to historical problems early in the course.


The essay, based on secondary sources, is due on 24 November. It should be approximately 2500 words exclusive of notes and bibliography. In order to avoid an overly large or diffuse topic, you must hand in a one-page proposal containing a thesis statement and a preliminary list (3 or 4 titles) of sources 13 October.

Essays must pose and answer a historical question. They should have both style and substance. Both familiarity with the sources and expressions of historical judgement are expected.


Discussions will be scheduled on a regular basis throughout the term. They are designed to closely follow the basic chronology established by the lectures. Participants are expected to have read the material, attended the relevant lecture and thought about the period under discussion. Prior to the discussion each participant will formulate one "good" question relating to the material at hand. This question, written on one sheet of paper, will be your admission pass to the discussion groups and must be passed in at the end of class. It will be graded on a pass/fail basis. Each group will discuss the offerings from its members and decide on one question to be presented to the full class for further discussion.

Responsibility marks:

As course participants you are responsible for bringing your "full self" to class - which means in addition to attending class you are expected to bring an open mind and be prepared to participate in group discussions and activities. It is your responsibility to come to class prepared to discuss the assigned material, maintain respect for the learning needs of others, pass in papers and essays on time and accept responsibility for your own learning. Accepting these responsibilities earns an automatic "A" in this category, while each late assignment reduces this mark.

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