Sunday, September 27, 2015

Medieval Ireland: The Enduring Tradition


Rating: 3.5 Stars


Given that my main area of interest leans toward England, the majority of my knowledge of Ireland in medieval times comes with a decidedly English slant. It was refreshing then to find this text, though it was published in 1988. I would be very interested to read the newest edition that came out in 2005 to see what insights have been added in the last couple of decades. Despite the slimness of the volume, it contained a plethora of information focusing mainly on 500-1500 AD, though the two early sections dealt briefly with Ireland prior to that time.

I do have a few complaints - more than once the author made a point and supported it with some detail, but followed up with the phrase, "...but that won't be discussed here..." or something to that effect. This is something that would be very frustrating for someone with no background knowledge. It leaves the reader with two dilemmas - the first being why is this info important enough to mention but not be elaborated on and two, now I have to seek out this information elsewhere (for the truly interested, at least. Some are able to just gloss over lines like that and keep going. I am not one of those people.)

For once I appreciated a lack of photos. They would not have served the text well. Too often I read books that have X amount of colored 'plates' (please, be MORE pretentious) and half of them end up being kind of related to the topic, in that they're from the same time period, but often there is not a specific connection. If I recall correctly, this book at three or four black and white maps of Ireland. They were really all that were necessary, as the primary focus of the text was the development of Ireland in medieval times. While society, culture, literature, the Church, and so on were important to make this development happen, a smattering of random photographs were not.

This is a fairly intense academic work, despite the length. It might be off-putting for those with a casual interest. I would recommend starting elsewhere if you have no background knowledge of medieval Ireland. Otherwise, I can say I recommend it (or perhaps the most current edition) for those who already have a foundation.

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