This travel course investigates the history of Ireland with special emphasis on the period between 1798 and 1998, when, through a series of revolts, upheavals and wars, Ireland painfully transformed from a subjected colony to an independent republic. This transformation also profoundly influenced the United States. The miseries of Ireland, particularly the Great Famine of the 1840s, drove nearly continuous emigration from Ireland for nearly 200 years. Today about thirty-five million Americans, or one-tenth of the U.S. population, is of Irish descent.
Based at Maynooth University outside of Dublin, the course will introduce students to multiple aspects of Irish history, culture and society, beginning with brief field trips to explore pre-18th century Irish society to a prehistoric site and Ireland’s most prominent Norman castle, Trim. We will then look at the English colonization and dominance in Ireland by the 18th century by looking at the grand homes and institutions of the Irish “Ascendancy,” the elite Anglo-Irish Protestant families who ruled the country.
Then we will move on the period of Irish Rebellions, beginning with the bloody disaster of 1798, continuing through the almost constant upheavals of the 19th century, culminating in the unhappy birth of the Irish state and its almost instant plunge into civil war, and ending with the Easter Agreement of 1998, which (so far) has appeared to end the political violence of the Northern Irish Troubles. In the course of bringing these stories to life we will visit museums, cathedrals, public buildings and Ireland’s most famous jail (now a national monument), see a play at and tour the Irish National theater, explore revolutionary Dublin on a walking tour, look at the portraits in the newly refurbished National Gallery, and visit the seat of Irish government.