Imperial Impact on Colonial Ireland

Since the middle ages England has invaded and tried to claim land from Ireland. This effort picked up intensity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries with English Imperialism. During that time Irish Catholic landownership had slowly been declining as protestant English settlers took advantage of laws to displace the natives. These laws, known as the Penal Laws, were passed in response to pro-Catholic measures at the end of the seventeenth century and stripped Catholics of their rights and lands. The Penal Laws encouraged protestant settlement in Ireland and limited the ability of Catholics to send their children off to receive an education or their ability to purchase and possess land. The Penal Laws also brought about the Registration Act which required Catholic priests to register in court and prevented them from leaving the county in which they were registered. Altogether the Penal Laws and the Registration Act were legal controls the British Empire imposed on the Irish to limit those who did not wish to convert to the Empire’s ways.

In addition to influencing the religion of Ireland, English Imperialism produced significant changes in other aspects of Irish culture. One of the most significant examples is the change in language. As English settlers began to take over Ireland, many natives began to abandon their Irish language for English. While some refused to abandon their native language, many made this change because they would be made fun of for using their native language and adopted the English language so they could better fit in with the foreign settlers. Another example is the changes to Irish names. In 1465 the English Parliament had passed an act that required Irishmen in the English controlled territory of the time to change their or lose all of their belongings. As a result many Irish names dropped the O’- or the Mac- prefixes to their names and some even changed their names completely to take on more “traditional” names in the sense of the British Empire. Other changes that English Imperialism have brought about include changes to Irish music and clothing. Traditional Irish instruments such as the harps and pipes had been slowly dying out and Irish clothing trends followed those in England, only lagging several years behind. All these changes are the result of English Imperial influence on Irish culture and its attempts to colonize the country.

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