Historical revisit: Edmund Curtis, A history of medieval Ireland (1923, 1938)

James Lydon
1999 Irish historical studies  
These verses were written by the Irish poet to express his grief at the impact of the Williamite victory at the battle of the Boyne and all that followed for Ireland. They were chosen two hundred years later by the historian Edmund Curtis to make clear his attitude towards Ireland's past. In 1923, just after home rule was secured for what was officially known as Saorstát Éireann (Irish Free State), he published his history of medieval Ireland, and where a dedication would normally be printed he
more » ... inserted 'The Absentee Lordship' and followed it with these verses. In doing this, Curtis left no doubt that in his view medieval Ireland was a lordship wrongfully attached to the English crown and that it should rightfully have been a kingdom under its own native dynastic ruler. For this he was subsequently denounced as unhistorical, and to this day, especially in the view of the so-called revisionists, he is commonly regarded as not only out of date, but dangerous as well. It was argued that Curtis used the medieval past to justify the emergence of a self-governing state in Ireland. To quote just one example, Steven Ellis, the best of the medieval revisionists, wrote in 1987 that 'historians like Edmund Curtis concentrated on such topics as friction between the Westminster and Dublin governments, the Gaelic revival, the Great Earl uncrowned king of Ireland, the blended race and the fifteenth-century home rule movement'.
doi:10.1017/s0021121400014401 fatcat:byyhfrfbgfhnveivkhxymtjxmu