Reappraising the Plantation of Ulster
A high-profile academic reappraisal of the 1609 Ulster Plantation is helping cement the links between the two cities at the heart of the enterprise – London, a burgeoning world economic trading centre, and Derry, the outpost citadel that became the walled city of Londonderry.
Details have now been confirmed for a series of international conferences organised by University of Ulster academics in close collaboration with colleagues in Goldsmiths, University College London and Trinity College Dublin tol mark the 400th anniversary of the Plantation.
The Guildhall in the City of London and the Guildhall in Londonderry will be the venues for the launch of the conferences, and the full programme of the events are now available at www.theplantationofulster.co.uk
According to Dr …amonn ” Ciardha, University of Ulster historian and a leading organiser of the Plantation of Ulster conferences, it is difficult to overstate the plantation’s pivotal importance to the shared histories of Ireland, Britain and the first British Empire.
†“The Ulster Plantation may have been 400 years ago but its impact is still being felt at home and abroad.† It effectively copper-fastened the English and British conquest of Ireland, and transformed Ireland’s physical, demographic, socio-economic, political, military, religious and cultural landscapes.
“It was England’s, Britain's and the City of London's first successful attempt at plantation and provided a successful template for British conquest, plantation and imperialism in the Americas, the Caribbean and the Indian sub-continent. No other city in the world has such strong ties to London as Derry, and the 400th anniversary of the plantation is an opportune time to captialise on this unique link.”
The series will be opened in the two cities’ Guildhalls by their first citizens, the Lord Mayor of the City of London and Mayor of Derry.
While the conferences will focus interest and attention on current historical research being undertaken at Ulster, Goldsmiths and Trinity, the organisers stress that the conferences will not to be the exclusive preserve of academics.
” Ciardha says: “We want to extend a warm invitation to people in the twinned cities of London /Derry-Londonderry to engage in a re-examination of and re-engagement with their long, inter-twined and often fraught histories.”
The series, ‘Plantation of Ulster, 1609 -2009: A Laboratory for Empire’ consists of three conferences in London (June 25 – 26), Derry (July 3 – 5) and Dublin (October 23 – 25).† They will reassess the legacy and disputed histories of the plantation.†
” Ciardha says it will be an opportunity to dispel the commonly held misconception that the Plantation of Ulster was just about religion.
“We have an impressive line up of internationally-renowned scholars from Ireland, Britain, Europe and the Americas to give their assessment of the plantation and its disputed histories in the context of local, national, international and global events.
“Religion will be discussed but so will politics, diplomacy, war, atrocity, economics, political economy, civil culture, urbanisation, migration, the British Atlantic world, environmental history, historical geography, cartography and cultural heritage.”
The plantation was bankrolled by the London merchant companies (Mercers, Grocers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Skinners, Merchant-tailors, Haberdashers, Salters,† Ironmongers, Vintners and Clothworkers) who operated under the umbrella of The Honourable the Irish Society.
†As part of the plantation strategy, new model settlements, which were financed by these 17th century equivalent of modern day venture capitalists, were strung out across the province. Some like Derry, Coleraine, Dungannon and Enniskillen prospered and grew but others like Butlersbridge, Ballieborough, Ballykelly, Ramelton and Raphoe remained small pockets of population in largely rural areas.
Pamphleteers, commentators and historians often claim that the planters exploited the province’s natural resources but, as ” Ciardha points out, ‘one man’s plunder is another man’s development’. It is difficult to assess the overall impact of the plantation in positive or negative terms.
” Ciardha continues: “Early 17th century Ulster was rich in natural resources - just a few years before the plantation William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, (Queen Elizabeth’s I’s chief minister) responded to Sir Henry Docwra’s plea for salted-fish by sending him nets and reminding him that he was sitting on the greatest salmon fishery in Christendom.
“The plantation brought about all kinds of changes and there were some improvements and innovations in agriculture and industry. Field systems, crop rotation and orchards were introduced, as were new crops such as herbs, artichokes and linen. The latter would have a significant impact in terms of economic growth in subsequent centuries.”
The London event will concentrate on the English and British political contexts, the role of the London companies, City, Crown and Parliament in the evolution and execution of the plantation, as well as their contribution to the construction of various plantation citadels, settlements, towns, villages and civic cultures. The keynote speaker is Edinburgh-based Dr Jenny Wormald, who will explore the relationship between the Scottish-British Crown and the Plantation.
The focus will then shift to the Guildhall in Londonderry and The Great Hall at Ulster’s Magee campus in the city where delegates will consider the political, religious and architectural impact of the plantation. Professor Jane Ohlmeyer (TCD) will deliver a public lecture on the Planter peers in 17th-century Ulster.
Trinity College Dublin – a major economic beneficiary of the plantation and archival home of its extensive cartographic, historical and literary records - will host the concluding event. It will concentrate on the 1641 Rebellion, re-appraising the plantation’s long-term political consequences, as well as placing the event in its imperial and global contexts of empire, colonialism, resistance atrocity and counter-atrocity.
†On 23 October, the 368th anniversary of the outbreak of the Rebellion, Professor Aidan Clarke (TCD) will deliver the keynote address in Dublin Castle.