Enduring Borderlands: the Marches of Ireland and Wales in the Early Modern Period

Enduring Borderlands: the Marches of Ireland and Wales in the Early Modern Period

Morgan, Rhys (University of Cardiff) & Power, Gerald  (National University of Ireland, Galway) (2009)


This joint chapter explores similarities and differences between two borderlands within the early modern ‘British’ state – the marches of Ireland and Wales. In some respects, the two regions were very different, most fundamentally because the Irish march remained militarised throughout the Tudor period, while Welsh society was markedly more peaceful. However, there was also much in common. In the later middle ages both marches were frontiers between the expanding Anglo-Normans and native Celtic soci- ety. The notion that the march separated ‘civility’ from ‘savagery’ was an enduring one: despite the efforts of the Tudors to impose centralisation and uniformity throughout its territories, there remained institutions, structures of power, and mentalities which ensured that both sets of marches were still in existence by the end of the 16th century. This chapter explores the reasons for the endurance of these borderlands, and indicates how political reforms of the 16th century caused the perception – and sometimes the very location – of the marches to alter.

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