England and the Irish Sea Zone in the Eleventh Century
By Clare Downham
Anglo-Norman Studies, Vol. 26 (2003)
Introduction: Many historical studies have been written about Anglo-Irish relations in the years immediately after the English invasion of Ireland in 1169. That the invasion should have an important place in research is understandable, given its long-term impact and its implications in recent historical and political debate. In contrast, very few publications have focused on Anglo-Irish political interaction in the eleventh century. In this paper, I hope to draw more attention to this somewhat neglected field of enquiry.
The emphasis of historical scholarship on the invasion and its aftermath has perhaps influenced the interpretation of earlier events. The issues in the eleventh century which have been studied most are those which can be seen to foreshadow the later invasion. These include Canterbury’s claims of ecclesiastical primacy, and the alleged ambitions of Knútr or William the Conqueror to dominate Irish rulers. Meanwhile, research on a wider range of issues has been lacking. The resulting narrative gives a rather selective view of events. This hindsight perspective has, I suggest, meant that England’s domination of Irish rulers in the eleventh century has tended to be exaggerated. Furthermore Ireland’s impact on England has generally been underestimated. In this paper I seek to highlight Ireland’s significance in English affairs from the reign of Æthelred the Unready to that of William Rufus.
Top Image: Detail of England and Ireland from a 15th century portolan chart