Ireland takes the stage
Mark Williamson reviews a new title for key stage 3.
Much history teaching in the UK remains stubbornly anglocentric even in those parts where the national curriculum requires a broader perspective. This series could help in a practical way to redress the balance by providing a source of reference for the teacher when planning work of this nature.
This particular title is highly relevant to the new key stage 3 study unit, The Making of the United Kingdom: crowns, parliaments and peoples 1500-1750, with its statutory component of relations between Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom; the plantations and Cromwell in Ireland are included as examples of topics which might be covered.
The political events which inevitably are the substance of this book are placed in a wider context of change in a lucid over-view of other developments across the period 1400-1700 and, more specifically, within the 16th century, although the map showing the distribution of protestants and Catholics unhelpfully omits to name Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands and the over-ambitious map of the voyages of discovery will lose most pupils south of the Azores.
The remaining three-quarters of the book places Ireland centre stage with sections on Tudor policy, the effects on Ireland of Political and religious conflict in England and the causes and consequences of the Williamite wars. Given the relative unfamiliarity of much of the subject matter the overviews, which introduce each section with clear explanations and relevant accompanying illustrations, are indispensable.
The key issue of the plantation system is the subject of systematic and detailed examination, supported by maps, plans and a wide range of both primary and secondary sources; these include Gillespie's recent study in which he regards the plantations not as a defence strategy for The Pale but as an attempt to re-create the world of South-east England in Southern Ireland.
Rice traces they system's growth from Mary Tudor's plantations of Leix and Offaly to Cromwell's over a century later. Although some settlers fled to safer shores when Ireland became the battleground of Europe in 1688, William's victory ensured that Catholic land ownership would continue to decline; a useful bar chart records it falling from 90 per cent in 1600 to just 15 per cent a century later.
The importance of this period as one in which the seeds of The Troubles were sown is appropriately recognised in a review of events which contrasts the interpretations placed on them by the two separate traditions. Pupils are invited to revisit the relevant chapters to gather information which supports or challenges sectarian viewpoints and opinions.
This is a well-organised and user friendly text. A wide range of assessment tasks is provided for each chapter with a marked emphasis on close scrutiny of the sources. Pupils of all backgrounds need to see these as the only windows we can reliably use in reviewing and coming to terms with events which have fuelled the imagination and the idealism of so many generations.