Society and Settlement in Glendalough and the Vartry before 1650
By Ian Cantwell
Dissertation, Trinity College Dublin, 1999
Introduction: In 1990, due to family circumstances, I moved to CastIekevin at which stage I just about knew that Glendalough existed. I became involved in the local historical society and other community organisations which led to the organisation of historical seminars and editing the local annual historical and folklore journal. Over time this developed into a knowledge of 18th and 19th century history and a desire to write a local study. As a result Trinity College was the next step because of a lack of understanding of the pre-historic and medieval periods. The academic milieu also seemed to be the best place to research and write, away from the distractions of home.
Glendalough and the Vartry yielded some of its secrets in these last four years and I became aware of its many unique aspects and the fact that the island viewpoints ofthe general political historian were not necessarily appropriate. Worth noting is their general call for more regional and local studies since the general hypotheses that they propose need to be tested and refined within more specific areas. Another factor that came to the fore was that the some of the contemporary source material served propaganda purposes and these needed to be critically examined.
For any researcher the basic questions are: what is there? why is it there? what is its context? who is associated with it? what is the temporal framework? and finally how it to be interpreted? Only then can a narrative and explanatory hypotheses be developed and written. Warren’s opinion that history does not exist until the historian makes it is apt. He points out that the goal of objective history is a chimera and that what passes for such is often intuitive judgements and innate wisdom disguised as methodology and the literary analogy he draws is between the relentless logic of Sherlock Holmes against the intuition of Philip Marlowe.