The weather in Ireland recently has been dire. The country has seen torrential rain, severe flooding and storms on an unprecedented scale in the last few months. This has left many people wondering what the future holds if this is the start of Climate Change taking effect.
Strangely we may find some clues as to what lies ahead in our medieval past, as we are not the first people to experience such challenging weather. In the late 13th & early 14th centuries Ireland was also battered by storms and maligned by poor weather. This podcast takes a look at some of the ways it impacted the medieval world. While society didn’t collapse if the experience of our ancestors is anything to go by our future could be something of a rocky and hungry road!
By the early 14th century, Kilkenny was the largest inland settlement in Ireland. Its annual eight-day fair attracted merchants from far and wide. In 1306, among those hoping to sell goods at the fair was William Douce, a leading merchant in Dublin. However getting goods from Dublin to Kilkenny was no easy task.
The overland journey took a traveler south through the lawless upper Barrow valley. Any merchant laden with goods was vulnerable to brigands and outlaws. William Douce however did not have to worry about his own personal safety. In 1306 the seventy mile journey, which would take several days, was undertaken by his serving man.
The road leaving Dublin took this serving man south west avoiding the Wicklow Mountains, home to Gaelic Irish rebels. Twenty miles south west of Dublin the serving man broke his journey at the town of Naas. Shortly after he arrived in the town, while he was still taking his goods off his horse, he met a local woman Cristiana la Sadelhackere. Cristiana was what as known in the medieval world as mulier communis (common woman) or a prostitute. In the course of their conversation she and the serving man came to an agreement that that in return for goods worth two shillings that ‘he should lie with her’.
Episode 8 sees medieval Ireland stand of the edge of a precipice. A rootless struggle for control of the O Neill kingdom breaks out in the North, while in Munster a new comer to the podcast – the Dal Cais challengthe King of Munster for power in the South. While Ireland is on the verge of chaos we look at these wars and how people struggled through a very tough period of not only war but famine, hard winters and an out break of leprosy and dysentery. By the end of the show Medieval Ireland will have changed and Brian Boru will have started his rise to power……
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Imagine how our understanding of the Norman invasion of Ireland might change if we had footage of Strongbow entering Dublin in 1170 or what we might think of Brian Boru if we had footage of his burial at Armagh in 1014. These comparisons highlight the role that film footage will play as we construct the history of the late 19th and 20th centuries. While film is as biased as any other source it gives an unique insight into past societies. There are numerous free film clips online about Irish history but here’s five clips i think are really fascinating and informative….. (more…)
I was researching the Great Irish Famine (1845-51) when I came across this bleak report written in Clifden workhouse on Christmas day 1847. Thesituation in Ireland was desperate by 1847 when famine related diseases started to ravage an already weakened population. The workhouse was what the 19th century offered up as state welfare. Orphans, the old and the destitute were admitted and in return for food they were subjected to a horrendous regime. The desperate situation in Ireland during the famine meant that these institutions were completely overwhelmed leading to massive levels of disease and mortality in the workhouses. Needless to say Christmas day 1847 was just another day of misery, disease and death for the people in Clifden workhouse.
A world without Christmas may seem inconceivable, however Christmas wasn’t always the festive public holiday it is today. Its popularity has wax and waned over the centuries being celebrated to varying degrees in different places and periods. In England in the late medieval era it was first officially declared a public holiday by royal decree of 1448. However in 1645 it was banned when radical Protestants – Puritans among them Oliver Cromwell, came to power in England.
One of the main sources for medieval Irish history, The Annals of the Four Masters, has an entry for the year 887 which talks about a mermaid 195 feet tall. So can you trust sources with such claims – How could a mermaid be so tall?
Have you ever been puzzled by history? Did people really only live to 40? What was it like to go to a medieval dentist? Maybe you’ve been puzzled how people survived before email, phones, cars or even proper roads? Well if you have the Irish history podcast is for you! The series tracks Irish history and archaeology trying to understand what daily life was like for normal people whilst also tracking the big picture of war, politics and needless to say invasions.
The first episode looks at early medieval Ireland, a world called Barbarian by the Romans. What did Ireland look like to the first missionaries from Rome and see how the Gaelic Irish lived. It also examines how people dealt with low life expectancy and constant death.
I am 32 year old historian, archaeologist and blogger. I have published a book on life in medieval Ireland entitled 'Witches, Spies and Stockholm Syndrome, life in Medieval Ireland'. I also organise tours of medieval Dublin, available on request.