IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, THE ENGLISH GOVERNMENT WAS ATTEMPTING TO CONTROL OVER THE WHOLE COUNTRY OF IRELAND. ONE OF THE MAIN WAYS TO DO THIS WAS TO DRIVE THE LANDOWNERS OFF THE LAND AND REPLACE THEM WITH ENGLISH AND SCOTTISH SETTLERS. THIS WAS KNOWN AS PLANTATION. OVER THE NEXT 100 YEARS THE LAND OF IRELAND CHANGED HANDS AS A RESULT OF A NUMBER OF PLANTATIONS.
ENGLAND WAS INSPIRED BY THE AMERICAN EMPIRES OF SPAIN AND PORTUGAL WHERE COLONIES HAD DEVELOPPED. AS THE IRISH COULD NOT BE TRUSTED TO SUPPORT THE KING OF ENGLAND THEY BELIEVED THAT NEW ENGLISH SETTLERS SHOULD BE BROUGHT TO IRELAND.
** When studying each Plantation, it is important to note when it occurred, under whose reign, what happened and whether it was a success or a failure. **
The Plantation of Laois and Offaly
This was the first plantation and was carried out in 1556 under the reign of Queen Mary. The Gaelic clans, the O Moores and the O Connors, had carried out raids continuously, in Laois and Offaly. English armies were sent to defeat them but failed. Queen Mary decided to plant this area.
Two thirds of the land was taken from the Irish and they were sent to the land bordering the Shannon. English settlers were given the land but had to build their own houses and keep armies on the land. They were not allowed to marry into Irish families or keep any Irish on the land. Laois became Queen’s County and Offaly became King’s County.
It was not a success because it had many difficulties. There were not enough English settlers, the Irish clans kept attacking and the Irish had to be hired to work on the land. Also, the Irish language and customs remained in use and the Gaelic Irish did actually receive grants of land.
The Munster Plantation
In the 1570’s the Fitzgerald’s of Desmond rebelled against the new Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth. English armies destroyed much of Munster. Elizabeth was afraid that Ireland would receive help from Spain so she decided to plant Munster in 1586 to make it a loyal place.
New maps were drawn up of Munster. English and Scottish undertakers were set up on estates in Munster. These had to undertake to follow English rule. The land was divided into 20 estates. The undertakers had to remove all Irish from their land and bring over from England 91 tenants and farm animals. They were also expected to introduce the English methods of farming to Ireland. Each undertaker had to pay rent to the government.
The Plantation was not a success. Much of the land had been damaged from the Desmond rebellion and so was not good farming land. The Gaelic Clans still attacked so many English planters went home, leaving only 3000 behind. This resulted in many Irish being employed on the estates. In 1598, Hugh O Neill sent an army to Munster and attacked the English settlers. By 1600, the plantation was in ruins.
The Plantation of Ulster
Between 1594 and 1603, O Neill and O Donnell, led a rebellion against Queen Elizabeth. It was known as the Nine Years War. They asked the Spanish king for help. Spanish troops landed in Kinsale in 1601 but were defeated by the English armies. The English were determined to destroy the Ulster Chieftains and under the Treaty of Mellifont, O Neill had to give up Gaelic customs, allow the English as sheriffs onto his land and
live by English law. By 1607, the Ulster chiefs could no longer put up with these restrictions and so left Ireland for Europe. This was known as the Flight of the Earls. With the powerful Earls gone, the English could now gain full control of Ulster.
In 1603, King James I took over England. He took 6 counties in Ulster – Donegal, Derry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Armagh and Cavan – to be planted by English and Scottish planters. James had learnt from the mistakes of the previous plantations and was determined to make this one a success.
Planters were ordered to bring over English and Scottish tenants and craftsmen. There would be 3 types of planters : Undertakers, Servitors and Irish landowners.
Undertakers : Gentlement to receive estates of 2,000, 1,500 or 1,000 acres. They would charge low rent to tenants and were not allowed Irish tenants.
Servitors : Men who had served the king as soldiers. Received estates of 1,000 acres. They were allowed to take Irish tenants.
Irish landowners “of good merit” : Irishmen who were loyal to the king. The servitors kept an eye on them. They were allowed to take Irish tenants but charged them high rent.
The undertakers and servitors had to build a bawn which would protect their area from attack. New towns were set up, ruled by a council.
The plantation did have problems. Not enough undertakers went to Ulster so the English Government forced London trade guilds to take part. Undertakers also took Irish tenants as they paid higher rent. The Gaelic Irish still attacked the planters.
Having said all this however, the Ulster Plantation was the first one to be largely successful. Most of the best land was now in the hands of the English or Scottish settlers. The English language and custom was soon introduced. A new way of life developped in Ulster with a new Protestant religion or Presbyterian religion. Ulster was now divided and is still divided today because of the Ulster Plantation.
The Cromwellian Plantation
In 1641 rebellion broke out in Ulster. Thousands of settlers were killed by Irish rebels. However, England’s king, Charles I was not able to do anything about it at that time because he was fighting a civil war against Oliver Cromwell in England. In 1649, Cromwell defeated Charles. He was now free to go to Ireland and get revenge for the massacres of the Protestant settlers.
Upon his arrival in Ireland Cromwell captured Drogheda and massacred many of the Gaelic Irish. This resulted in towns all over Ireland giving up. Cromwell got rid of many Irish priests by sending them out to the West Indies. He decided to give the land to Englishmen who supported the parliament and to soldiers who had fought with him in the war.
The land was surveyed and mapped by Sir William Petty. This was known as the Down Survey. Most of Munster, Leinster and Connaught were taken over by Cromwells government. Under the Act of Settlement anyone who had fought against the English would lose his land and his life. Those who couldn’t prove their loyalty lost their land only. They were transplanted to Connaught (To hell or to Connaught). The farmers and labourers were left behind to work for the new English landlords.
The Cromwellian Plantation was not without its problems. Many English settlers intermarried with the Irish and children were reared as Catholics. Some estates were sold on to rich Irish landlords.
However, the plantation was mostly successful. 90 % of the land now belonged to English Protestant Planters. Ireland became a deeply divided country between Protestant landlords and Catholic tenants.
Results of Plantations
- Land ownership changed hands. Pre-plantations 90% of land belonged to Irish Chieftains and Earls. Post-plantation 10% of land was in Irish hands.
- Pre-plantations the main religion in Ireland was Catholicism. Post-plantation a new religion was introduced, Protestantism or Presbyterianism.
- Pre-plantations the main language was Irish. Post-plantation the new language was English.
- New English customs were brought in to Irish culture.
- The English system of farming was now developped instead of the Irish system.