The British Colonization of Ireland

I was reading The Barbarous Years by Bernard Bailyn (a great book by the way) about the earliest settlement of North America by the English and was surprised to read this.

In the years when the Virginia Company’s directors were pouring funds and lives into a failing effort to earn corporate profits from settlements on the James River, they and others were investing also in settlements in Bermuda and in Ireland—especially in Ireland. It was Ireland in fact that was Britain’s fastest-growing colony throughout the early seventeenth century. Large regions in northeastern and southeastern Ireland were seized from their inhabitants, plantations created or resumed, the natives forced west into infertile hill country, and great parcels of land declared open for resettlement by veterans of the Irish wars and migrants from abroad. The result was a burst of westward migration far more powerful than any that lay behind the settlements in the western hemisphere. In the twelve years after 1630, 120,000 Englishmen and Scots are estimated to have migrated to Ireland, double the number of those who went to the West Indies in those years, six times more than went to New England.2

Bailyn, Bernard. The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 (p. 119). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I knew that the English had colonized Ireland with “nobles” and political favorites of Elizabeth, but I had no idea that this had driven a large scale immigration of English citizens as well. One that eclipsed even the North American swell in the early 17th century.

Truly Barbarous

And speaking of “barbarousness,” when someone tells you how barbarous the native vs. colonizer wars in colonial America were, just read a little about the English wars in Ireland. It will set your teeth on edge. Not only were the atrocities similar, but the “feed fights” were similar between Ireland in the late 16th century and Virginia in the early 17th century.  A good book on this topic of barbarity and when it was considered “OK” is Barbarians and Brothers by Wayne E. Lee. It sounds preposterous, but there really were a sort of unwritten rules for what was done and not done when it came to quelling rebellious groups. Fascinating to read about, but utterly horrendous for those who had to live it.