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Cultural Exchange and Identity in Late Medieval Ireland
The English and Irish of the Four Obedient Shires


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Part of Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought: Fourth Series

  • Date Published: March 2020
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107567375

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About the Authors
  • Irish inhabitants of the 'four obedient shires' - a term commonly used to describe the region at the heart of the English colony in the later Middle Ages - were significantly anglicised, taking on English names, dress, and even legal status. However, the processes of cultural exchange went both ways. This study examines the nature of interactions between English and Irish neighbours in the four shires, taking into account the complex tensions between assimilation and the preservation of distinct ethnic identities and exploring how the common colonial rhetoric of the Irish as an 'enemy' coexisted with the daily reality of alliance, intermarriage, and accommodation. Placing Ireland in a broad context, Sparky Booker addresses the strategies the colonial community used to deal with the difficulties posed by extensive assimilation, and the lasting changes this made to understandings of what it meant to be 'English' or 'Irish' in the face of such challenges.

    • Places Ireland in a broad context and avoids the specialist language that separates Irish historiography from the historiography of the medieval world more generally
    • Integrates the experiences of non-elite groups into its analysis to help readers get a more accurate understanding of colonial society, at all levels, in Ireland
    • Incorporates both ecclesiastical and secular developments and institutions to reveal the close and complex relationships between the secular and religious in medieval society
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    • Winner, 2019 James S. Donnelly, Sr, Prize for Books on History and Social Sciences, American Conference for Irish Studies

    Reviews & endorsements

    '… I would recommend this book. It is engaging, informative, and helps to unravel and explain some of the more complex relationships between the English and the Irish in the four counties at the heart of the English colony in later medieval Ireland. It makes a significant contribution to the scholarship, and encourages us to rethink our assumptions about ethnicity in the Middle Ages.' Michael Potterton, American Historical Review

    '… this book is indispensable for anyone interested in colonial Ireland in the fifteenth century. Booker's deeply researched monograph offers a wealth of evidence and a variety of sources worth mining in future studies.' Kathryn Lavezzo, Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107567375
    • length: 314 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.5kg
    • contains: 2 maps
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Introduction: cultural exchange and identity in late medieval Ireland
    1. Defining the region: the four obedient shires
    2. Migration, assimilation, and status: the Irish of the four shires
    3. Mediation and cooperation: the 'two nations' in the church
    4. Interethnic family ties: intermarriage and fosterage
    5. Irish customs in the four shires
    6. The Irish language and the English community
    Conclusions: identity and the limits of assimilation.

  • Author

    Sparky Booker, Queen's University Belfast
    Sparky Booker is a Lecturer at Queen's University Belfast and specialises in medieval Irish social, cultural and legal history. Her publications have examined the interactions between the English of Ireland and the Irish in the later Middle Ages, and explored intermarriage, sumptuary law, ecclesiastical patronage and the Irish in urban society. Recent work examines female litigants in medieval Ireland, and analyses litigant strategies and the influence of wealth, status, ethnicity and gender on women's legal activities. Booker is keenly interested in public history and, as a member of the Friends of Medieval Dublin, was co-founder and co-editor of the Tales of Medieval Dublin lecture series and accompanying book.


    • Winner, 2019 James S. Donnelly, Sr, Prize for Books on History and Social Sciences, American Conference for Irish Studies
    • Winner, 2019 Donald Murphy Prize for Distinguished First Books, American Conference for Irish Studies

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