Irish History: Conflict, Identity and the Shaping of Modern Ireland

University of Galway

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Irish History: Conflict, Identity and the Shaping of Modern Ireland

  • Host University

    University of Galway

  • Location

    Galway, Ireland

  • Area of Study

    Celtic Studies, History

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview


    This course offers a survey of Irish history. The initial lecture will set the stage by considering some aspects of the early and medieval periods, but the principal focus will be on the modern centuries, beginning with the Tudor conquest of Ireland. By charting the history of Anglo-Irish relations through major political and military conflicts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, special attention will be given to the British attempt to assimilate Ireland under the Act of Union from 1801. We will examine the mass political and social campaigns that emerged in the nineteenth century and the rise of the modern ideologies of Irish unionism and nationalism, including the influential Irish-American dimension of the latter which took shape in the decades after the Great Famine (1845-50). Ultimately the course will examine the undoing of the Union between Britain and Ireland in 1921, the nature of the partition agreement which underpinned the constitutional settlement at that time, and how sustained violent conflict in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s forced politicians and political leaders in these islands and beyond to revisit the ‘Irish Question’.

    The approach taken in this module is thematic. Classes will consist of a mixture of lectures and discussions; and to facilitate a closer treatment of one of the central themes of the course, a class debate will take place, midterm, in one of the historic buildings in Galway. Choice readings and links to two award-winning documentaries will be made available on the course Blackboard site during term.


    Week 1

    • Induction period: setting the early modern background.
    • The end of Gaelic Ireland: the completion of the English conquest in the 1500s.
    • Making Ireland British: plantation and social engineering.

    Week 2

    • The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
    • From the Cromwellian conquest to the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.
    • The Protestant nation, the Catholic Question and the Act of Union.

    Week 3

    • Nineteenth-century modernisation Class debate, King’s Head, Galway: conquest and ‘war crime’.
    • The Great Famine (1845-50): accelerant of change.
    • Changing the Irish question: Ireland, America and Empire.

    Week 4

    • The twentieth century Easter 1916: ‘a terrible beauty is born’.
    • The independent Irish state.
    • Northern Ireland, 1921-68.


    • Conflict and conciliation
    • The Northern Ireland conflict.
    • The ‘peace process’: an end to Irish history?


    Sean Duffy, The Concise History of Ireland (Dublin, 2005). This should be purchased in advance. Readings tailored to the course will also be uploaded onto Blackboard during the term of the Summer School.

    Additional Recommended Reading

    • T.W. Moody & F.X. Martin, The Course of Irish History (Dublin, 2005, though any earlier edition is recommended)
    • T.W. Moody & F.X. Martin (eds.), A New History of Ireland, vol. III: Early modern Ireland,1534-1691 (Oxford, 1976)
    • Nicholas Canny, Making Ireland British, 1580-1650 (Oxford, 2003)
    • Paidráig Lenihan, Consolidating Conquest: Ireland, 1603-1727 (Essex, 2008)
    • T.W. Moody & W. E. Vaughan (eds.), A New History of Ireland, vol. IV: Eighteenth-century Ireland, 1691- 1800 (Oxford, 1986, 1999)
    • Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, Ireland before the famine, 1798-1848 (Dublin, 1990)
    • J.J. Lee, The Modernisation of Irish society, 1848-1918 (Dublin, 1973, 1989)
    • The Cambridge History of Ireland, vols. I-IV, (Cambridge, 2018).

    On-line Viewing 

    The following is a link to a television history of Ireland, The Story of Ireland (series 1-5), jointly produced by the BBC and the Irish national broadcaster, RTÉ. The programme takes a thematic approach to the course of Irish history, and provides a useful screen introduction to accompany this module.


    Attendance at lectures and participation in seminars.

    • One mid-term essay - 1,500 words
    • One final essay – 1,500 words

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

Credits earned vary according to the policies of the students' home institutions. According to ISA policy and possible visa requirements, students must maintain full-time enrollment status, as determined by their home institutions, for the duration of the program.

ECTS (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System) credits are converted to semester credits/quarter units differently among U.S. universities. Students should confirm the conversion scale used at their home university when determining credit transfer.

Availability of courses is based on enrollment numbers. All students should seek pre-approval for alternate courses in the event of last minute class cancellations


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