Aimed at the student and general reader, this is a study of Ireland’s people, landscape and place in the world from late antiquity to the reign of Brian Bórama. It narrates the story of Ireland’s emergence into history, using anthropological, archaeological, historical and literary evidence. Subjects covered include the king, the kingdom and the royal household; religion and customs; free and unfree classes in society; exiles and foreigners. The rural, urban, ecclesiastical, ceremonial and mythological landscapes of early medieval Ireland anchor the history of early Irish society in the rich tapestry of archaeological sites, monuments and place-names that have survived to the present. A historiography of medieval Irish studies presents the commentaries of a variety of scholars from the 17th-century Franciscan Mícheál Ó Cléirigh to Eoin Mac Neill, the founding father of modern scholarship.
Edel Bhreathnach is Chief Executive Officer of the Discovery Programme, and has published extensively on a wide range of topics relating to medieval Irish history and culture.
‘A work of considerable originality ... brimming with insights and warmth for the subject. It is one of those books that wants to share the subject’s secrets with newcomers rather than keep outsiders at bay, and the author’s passion for her field of study is writ large on every page … the delightfully evocative and freshly imaginative opening excursion through the physical landscape of early Ireland is taken at quite a canter before the book arrives at the more familiar territory of kingdoms and churches. Familiar themes they may be, but within them exciting new avenues of investigation are opened up … This is a book to read and re-read, it is a book to savour, to ponder and to explore ... it is in fact a joy. Is it value for money? It is worth three times its price’, Seán Duffy, History Ireland (May/June 2015).
‘Ireland in the medieval world is, in many respects, the twenty-first-century companion to Byrne’s Irish kings and high-kings (1973) … In her treatment of the landscapes of early Ireland, Bhreathnach focuses on the sea, wildernesses and settlements of the island … The real strengths of this book are the great breadth of scholarship that Edel Bhreathnach brings to kingship and religion and the immense energy behind her search for new ways of expressing early Irish medieval culture and society … It is a dynamic and novel reading of the early medieval past which will encourage further imagining of Ireland within the medieval world’, Elizabeth FitzPatrick, Studia Hibernica (2014).
‘A well-presented volume containing both colour and black-and-white images … it is largely a fascinating historical account of the nobility and the early Church in Ireland … The book excels in its use of historical and literary sources to explore the roles of kings and the Church in early medieval Ireland … this is a valuable addition to the library of anyone with an interest in the Irish past … it is interspersed throughout with examples that bring both the text and the past to life … It paints a clear picture of royal and religious life and surely succeeds in inspiring its readers “to explore the fascinating culture and history of early medieval Ireland”’, Michelle Comber, Journal of Irish Archaeology (2015).