University of Tasmania
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The reform treatises and discourse of early Tudor Ireland, c. 1515-1541

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posted on 2023-05-28, 10:01 authored by Marshall, CT
The aim of this thesis is to offer a detailed examination and analysis of reform literature concerning the Lordship of Ireland between 1515 and 1541. It addresses questions relating to the dating, authorship, and content of reform discourse, and explores its implications in order to provide a nuanced assessment of the roles English and Anglo‚ÄövÑv™Irish officials, as well as the crown, played in influencing and advancing a practical reform agenda for Ireland. Many of the complaints of the authors of the reform discourse revolved around cultural tensions and attempts to dislodge 'overmighty' earls who had become de facto governors of the lordship. Their concerns also reflected broader fears about the power wielded by the other great magnates, as well as notable lords and churchmen of Ireland. The rise of Kildare power in particular presented enduring problems, bringing into relief the most significant impetus for reform described in the discourse. This thesis also recognises the significance of intellectual currents that came to bear on aspirations for reform. Accordingly, from the fifteenth century, it investigates the ideological roots of reform, focussing on the influence of humanism and concomitant ideas of the 'commonweal'. How those intellectual currents influenced reform writers, how their opinions were further moulded by contemporary events and circumstances, and how these came to bear on the crown and manifested in official policy is also explored. The 1515 treatise, the 'State of Ireland', in particular, is examined in depth, providing as it does an important intellectual bridge across the traditional medieval and early modern boundary, defining a standard that would be both complemented and challenged in future treatises and correspondence. The cumulative influence of the discourse on the crown and how it affected Henry VIII's disposition towards reform in the lordship ‚Äö- intellectually and practically ‚Äö- is also considered in light of his correspondence with those involved in the Dublin administration. Accordingly, this thesis attempts to reconcile Henry VIII's evolving views of governance in Ireland with some historians' contention of a humanist‚ÄövÑv™inspired 'reforming milieu' based in the Pale. It will consider whether some Palesmen shrewdly leveraged the language of humanism to ingratiate themselves with the king so that their concerns were more favourably received. The study of early Tudor reform discourse provides important insights into the militaristic and colonialist events of subsequent decades. Indeed, Henry's moderate approach to governance in Ireland, which gradually took shape after 1515 and culminated in the parliamentary act that made him King of Ireland in 1541 and the conciliatory programme of surrender and regrant, died with him in 1547, having catastrophic repercussions for centuries to come.


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