Reflecting on Plantation Maps and Societal Trends

Initially when reading the Irish Plantations: By map article on OpenLearn, I didn’t see much. There were few labels on the graphs and a poorly worded key – very different from the graphs I’m used to seeing in the research papers I usually read. However, after reading chapter 2 of Kilfeather’s Dublin: A Cultural History, the graphs become much more interesting.

We learn from Kilfeather’s book about the struggles Dubliners had to go through from the late 16th century to the early 17th century, from the principal Penal Laws and how they viewed the American revolution, to literatures and plays written by famous Dublin poets and playwrights. They built their own culture, separate from the British, in where they had their own types of books, their own taste in music, and were uniquely themselves. However, having their own separate culture did not stop them from having conflicts with the British.

Tudor English plantations in the late 1500’s

The maps of the Irish Plantations are beautiful because they not only convey statistical information, but also tell a story. We can see that, from the first map to the last map, as time went on, more and more land was taken over by Scottish and English protestants from the Irish Catholics. The graphs are a visualization of the effect of the principal Penal Laws and that Irish Catholics were very nearly pushed out of their own land.

Catholic landownership in the late 1600’s. Note the expansion of the English plantations over the last century

These maps are ultimately a rich and valuable resource for not only keeping history of Ireland’s plantations, but also visualizing just how difficult life was for Catholics in the early 1700’s

1 Comment

  1. I also wrote about the comparison between Kilfeather’s writing and the Irish plantation maps. I completely agree that without the historical context, the maps are difficult to interpret. I think it’s so important to notice how the statistical demographics affect Irish society. The clash between Protestants and Catholics led to severe reductions in Catholic power and autonomy, creating lasting discrimination. I love that you bring up the independent culture of Dubliners, and how their identities were shaped by the changing social, and physical, landscape.

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