Sunday, June 23, 2024

How Ireland served as a laboratory for the British Empire – Irish Times

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The specter of empire looms large. The devastating conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine are a legacy of empire, as was the upheaval in Northern Ireland (1968-1998).

From 1516 until the end of World War I, Palestine formed part of the Ottoman Empire, which surrounded the Mediterranean basin and included coastal areas of North Africa, the Middle East, and much of southeastern Europe. In 1918, Britain conquered Palestine and ruled it as a “mandated territory” until 1948, after which Palestine was divided into 2 divided into two states.

By the early 20th century, the British Empire had become the largest global empire in history, one on which the sun literally never set, with Ireland its oldest colony. The British Empire’s great rival on the world stage was Romanov Russia, which at its height in the 19th century stretched from the Baltic Sea in the west to Alaska in the east, and included much of Central and Northeast Asia. Russian expansionism began in earnest in the mid-17th century with the conquest and annexation of Ukraine, known as “Little Russia,” which formed an integral part of the vast landlocked Russian Empire until it secured independence in 1991. went. Just as imperial nostalgia fuels British right-wing nationalism, recreating this Romanov empire is currently driving Vladimir Putin.

Conquest and colonization were not single events, as the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, and the British Empire all demonstrate. These were complex processes that spanned centuries and affected different regions in different ways at different times.

One thing is clear: imperialism was, and is, about territorial acquisition, settler colonialism, the exercise of political and economic power, and violence and coercion. . Strategies about how best to turn conquest into profit and organize, mobilize, and manage natural resources, particularly land and labor, differed from empire to empire, but the often harsh realities of daily life remained the same, ranging from acceptable to acceptable. It provoked a wide range of reactions. , resistance, rebellion, and adaptation to deadly colonial wars, assimilation and innovation.

So what will happen to Ireland, which has a long history of empire? England invaded Ireland for the first time in her 1169, and Frederick Engels stated in a letter to Karl Marx (1856) that “Ireland may be regarded as the first English colony” .

In the 1640s, refugees, mainly women and children, invaded Dublin.Witness accounts document brutal assaults, nudity, torture, rape, and reproductive violations inflicted on women.

The colonists followed the conquerors and settled throughout the island, especially in Münster and Ulster. By the early 18th century, nearly a third of the island’s population was of immigrant descent, and he was the descendant of the 350,000 (mostly Protestant) settlers who colonized Ireland in the 17th century. The colonists brought with them English language, fashion, culture, and commercial law, and privileged Irish language and dress, as well as Irish agricultural, social, political, and cultural customs, through parliamentary legislation, while outlawing them.

Like the Ottoman and Russian empires, Irish imperialism was ultimately based on violence and the use of force. During the Nine Years’ War (1594-1603), the British army used scorched-earth tactics and starvation to secure obedience. During the wars of the 1640s, approximately 20 percent of Ireland’s population died. Many non-combatants died from war, exposure, starvation, and disease, and were also taken hostage or dislocated. Refugees, mostly women and children, flooded into Dublin and other urban centres. Eyewitness accounts (known as “1641 depositions”) documented brutal assaults, nudity, torture, rape, and reproductive violations inflicted on women. From the 17th to the 20th century, politicians and propagandists used their trauma and suffering to instill fear, incite sectarianism, and justify retribution.

Sectarianism, cultural stereotypes, dehumanization, and expropriation underpinned early modern British imperialism. Ireland’s land ownership revolution, which began with the plantations of the early 17th century and culminated with the Cromwellian family and later the land recovery colonies, resulted in the wholesale transfer of approximately 8 million acres of land from Catholic to Protestant hands. This was the result. Furthermore, Irish land, along with access to Irish labor, provided funding for British imperialism in Ireland and abroad, particularly in the Atlantic and in India. By the end of the 17th century, Ireland was fully integrated into the dependent economic structure that later characterized the British Empire.

In this and many other respects, Ireland served as a laboratory for the British Empire. It was in Ireland that imperialism and Anglicization policies were formulated. Race-based ideologies developed and “tools of empire” such as cartography were tested. Just as the Irish were victims of British imperialism, so too were Catholics as well as Protestants, some of whom actively engaged in imperial business or served in the imperial army or government. .

Ireland not only built an empire, but also served as a model of resistance to imperial rule, inspiring freedom fighters across Britain and other European empires. Today, some hope that Ireland might become a template for peace, with a “two-state solution”.

One thing is certain. What we are witnessing in the Middle East and Ukraine is the cruel and often unrecognized legacy of the collapse of the Ottoman, British and Russian empires. The harsh reality is that empires and imperial frameworks have shaped world history for millennia and continue to do so.

Jane Ohlmeyer, Erasmus Smith Professor of Modern History, Trinity College, Dublin (1762), author of Making Empire. She is the author of Ireland, Imperialism and the Early Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2023) and principal investigator of a new European-funded project to reconstruct women’s lived experiences in early modern Ireland.

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