Simon Egan: Postdoctoral Fellow (2017-18)


Dr Simon Egan graduated with a PhD in History from University College Cork in 2016. His doctoral thesis explored the resurgence of Gaelic political power in Ireland and Scotland during the period, c.1300-c.1550.

This current project is entitled 'The Dynastic World of the Late Medieval and Renaissance Gaeltacht, c.1400-c.1550'. By the year 1500 most of Ireland and western Scotland had fallen under the control of the increasingly powerful and autonomous Gaelic speaking nobility. Power within this Gaelic speaking world, or Gaeltacht, had, by this time, become concentrated within the hands of select number of dynasties. These included the Gaelic Irish O'Neills of Tyrone, O'Donnells of Tyrconnell, O'Briens of Thomond, the 'Gaelicized' Anglo-Irish Burkes of Mayo and Clanrickard as well as the Gaelic Scottish MacDonalds of the Hebrides and Campbells of Argyll. By the mid-fifteenth century these dynasties had established themselves as the main players in their respective regions; they were moreover, capable of dominating large areas of the Gaeltacht over successive generations and were courted as allies by both the English and Scottish monarchies. Drawing upon a broad range of sources from within the Gaelic speaking world, as well as English, Scottish, and, where relevant, French and Imperial material, this project explores the dynastic structures of power underpinning the establishment of these dynasties.  The project endeavours  to locate the rise of these dynasties within the broader context of European Renaissance dynastic culture. For example, as a composite monarchy, the Holy Roman Emperors ruled over a vast multi-ethnic polity including Germans, Czechs, Croats, Italians and Flemings. Though geographically smaller, Ireland and Britain were comprised of multi-ethnic communities and both the English and Scottish monarchies ruled over racially diverse peoples.Historians have however, tended to focus on the English crown's relations with the Anglo-Irish nobility, rather than investigating how large elements of the Gaelic Irish and Gaelic Scottish nobility often looked to both the English and Scottish monarchies for political support.Exploring the dynastic structures of power within the Gaeltacht thus offers a new approach for uncovering and contextualising English and Scottish interaction with the Gaelic nobility during a formative period of Irish and British history.