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The World of the Gáidhealtachd and the origins of the Early Modern British State, 1513-1594.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - GEMS (The World of the Gáidhealtachd and the origins of the Early Modern British State, 1513-1594.)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-09-30

The action ‘The World of the Gàidhealtachd and the Making of the Early Modern ‘British’ State, c.1513-c.1594’, explores how events within the Gaelic-speaking world of Ireland and the West Highlands and Islands of Scotland impacted upon the emergence of the ‘British’ state in the 16th century. In particular, the project examines how the resilience of the Gaelic nobility in Ireland and Scotland actively acted as a check on English expansionism, thus delaying the emergence of the composite British state in the early 17th century. This topic is important for two key reasons. Firstly, scholarship on late medieval/early modern Irish and British history has overwhelmingly focused on the expansion of English power within the archipelago. Little attention by comparison has been devoted to exploring how the Gaelic aristocracy shaped the course of Irish and British history in this period. Therefore, this project has the potential to offer a fresh perspective on the political development of this formative period. Secondly, Europe today is facing challenges from populism and right wing extremism. By investigating, the formation of the British state, this project has the potential to offer a deeper understanding of contemporary events such as the UK’s recent decision to leave the EU.

The objectives of this MSCA have been (a) to conduct the research necessary to produce a monograph and four peer-review publications; (b) effect a paradigm shift within scholarship; and (c) foster the professional development of the researcher through a dedicated training programme.
Work was conducted via 5 work packages (WPs). WP1 examined the historical period c.1513-1559 and drew upon rich meld of primary material (including 6 archival research trips) to produce the research necessary for drafting monograph chapters one and two as well as the introduction. WP2 explored the historical period c.1560-c.1594 and examined primary sources to conduct the research necessary for drafting chapters three and four as well as the monograph conclusion. WP3 entailed the researcher training programme which saw the fellow complete: an intensive language course in Gàidhlig (modern Scottish Gaelic); 12 professional development courses; teach an honours-led course in History and participate in team-taught postgraduate module in Celtic Studies; and submit an RET teaching portfolio. WP4 entailed the researcher’s dissemination plan. In this WP, the researcher exceeded their goals by presenting 9 conference/seminar papers and hosted a two-day conference online via Zoom. The researcher submitted 2 papers for publication and currently has 5 further papers in draft status and will publish the proceedings from their online conference. They delivered a public talk and also wrote 3 reviews for public history magazines. In addition, the researcher designed a public website to showcase the project and is participating in contributing materials to an online resource for teaching early modern Irish. The project was managed under WP5.

The results of this MSCA will be reported in several forthcoming publications. These include the project monograph; 4 peer-reviewed book chapters which explore different aspects of Gaelic Ireland’s changing relationship with Gaelic Scotland during the later middle ages and early modern period; 3 articles which examine military links between Ireland and Scotland in this period; an edited collection arising from the researcher’s two-day online conference.
This project has begun to extend the frontiers of Irish and British history in a number of ways. Firstly, the major research findings arising from this project have revealed the following: (i) the ability of the Gaelic Irish and Gaelic Scottish nobility to forge alliances with one another was a key factor delaying the Tudor conquest of Ireland and, (ii) that the political history of Ireland and Britain cannot be fully understood without exploring the Hiberno-Scottish interface in this period. Crucially, these findings have challenged the dominant Anglo-centric approach to Irish and British history in this period. Although the papers emerging from this action have yet the published, the project is beginning to effect a paradigm shift within late medieval/early modern Irish and British history. By attending and presenting at numerous high-profile conferences, the researcher has been able to showcase this research arising from the project to a wide international audience of scholars working both within and across a variety of different disciplines such as history, Celtic studies, archaeology, and literature. This, in turn, has also seen the researcher invited deliver papers at specialist seminars and symposia as well as been invited to contribute chapters to peer-reviewed edited collections. The researcher’s conference (‘Beyond the Pale and Highland Line’) enabled the researcher to host a two-day event focused on research themes emanating from the project. Importantly, the conference has enabled the fellow to create their own research network, coupled with the potential for an annual online conference. This annual event, coupled with the forthcoming published research, will ensure that the project continues to have an impact well beyond its initial lifespan.

The project has also helped to inform societal perceptions of late medieval/early modern Irish and British history. In particular, the project sought to emphasise the importance of the Gaelic world as a key ‘component’ in the history of the British Isles. This concept has been promoted through several public engagement activities. Firstly, the project website disseminated research findings in an easily digestible format through monthly blog post updates. The website also hosts two digital maps of the Gaelic world c.1500 delineating lordships and the main aristocratic families residing therein. Currently there are few resources outside academia for mapping these families: therefore, these online maps will help make this topic more accessible. The public talk allowed the researcher to present some of their findings to an audience in a non-specialised format. By designing a quiz, the researcher was also able to ascertain certain public perceptions about Irish and British history. The researcher has also been commissioned to write a six-part series for ‘History Scotland’ magazine. By drawing upon research findings arising from the project, the researcher will able to disseminate the project to an even wider audience and promote the importance of the Gaelic world as a historical concept.

Overall impacts from this MSCA are greatly strengthened: the importance of the Gaelic world a key element in Irish and British history has been clearly underlined within an academic setting. This impact will be further strengthened following the publication of papers emerging from the project. Equally, the project is leading to an enhanced public perception of the Gaelic past.